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Pop Music Review : Kimm Rogers: Country, Rock Groove

June 17, 1987|CHRIS WILLMAN

A long mess of curly blond hair, a smear of red lipstick, a below-knee-length white dress, an acoustic guitar, a two-beat beat, a girlish voice mixed with a Janis Joplin vocal complex, and a gig on stage at the Lingerie. . . . Sounds like Maria McKee about four years ago, doesn't it?

But it's a Monday night in 1987 and it's Kimm Rogers, a promising newcomer who is both more and less orthodox than that inevitable comparison might suggest.

It's more ordinary in that when Rogers plays country-rock (which is only part of the time), it's definitely country-rock and not country-punk. But there's a spin she puts on her lyrics that's more knowingly askew, less precocious--like in the wryly titled "Get Over Yourself," which pops the question, "Why don't you get out of your way?"

Like McKee, Rogers is most pleasing as a vocalist when she tones herself down. (Unlike McKee, Rogers is not technically skilled enough to always get away with the loud stuff.) Her most impressive numbers Monday tended to be the most low-key tunes--including a John Prine number, "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness," one of two duets shared with guest Jimmer Podrasky of the Rave-Ups.

But in personality she's more a rocker than a balladeer. And her rocker persona is probably closer in its friendly feistiness to someone identified as a country singer like a Janie Frickie than it is to the glamour-puss come-on of an Ann Wilson or Madonna.

Meaning? Even if only a minority of her songs had any obvious country root, and even if her advance publicity (while noting that she grew up in Nashville and Los Angeles) carefully avoids using the word \o7 country\f7 , and even if her rock is often straight-ahead as can be, the climate in country may be more conducive to what she's doing right now than the climate in rock. For the time being, anyway, she can get away with straddling.

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