From his slice-of-life songs to his stories of days on the road with his late brother, Stan, Garnet Rogers fills his concerts with humor and lore.
Coming to Stage Left Café on March 24, the Canadian folk artist has turned down offers from major record labels through the years to ensure he continues to do music his way. Touring with his brother in the 1970s, their songs about Canadian working folk – released in their first album, “Fogarty’s Cove – struck a chord across the nation.
After Stan’s death in a plane accident in 1983, Garnet released a self-titled solo album, followed by an album every two years into the 1990s. A 2002 greatest hits album, “All That Is,” became his first to be released by an American company.
“The songs are relatively serious, but I’m not,” he said. “I tend to spend the time in between songs making fun of myself. I try to remember that it’s an evening out or an afternoon out for folks and they want to have a laugh, as well.
“I find the most effective way to do it is to make fun of myself or talk about the weird things that have gone on in my life.”
Through the years, Garnet has shared the stage with performers such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Billy Bragg, Bill Monroe, Ferron, Greg Brown and Guy Clark.
In a concert presented by Promote Woodstock and Real Woodstock, he will perform with opening artist Crys Matthews at 2 p.m. March 24 at Stage Left Café, 125 W. Van Buren St. Tickets cost $25. For information, visit www.woodstockoperahouse.com or www.realwoodstock.com.
Compared to Tracy Chapman, Toshi Reagon and Rutie Foster, Matthews blends Americana, folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass and funk with traditional melodies and original lyrics.
Garnet Rogers and Matthews first met while performing at a past Woodstock Folk Festival.
“I’ll get to brag to other people I was there when she started out,” Rogers said.
Barely out of high school, Rogers was on the road as a full-time working musician with his older brother in the the 1970s through the early 1980s. His book, “Night Drive – Travels with My Brother,” depicts those days.
The two were “stubborn and not very bright,” he said, determined to play their own songs in places where they weren’t always welcome.
“It was just every day laughing while writing this thing,” he said of the book.
“It was horrendous to live through, the poverty, drugs, alcohol and fights, people cheating us and all the bizarre things you could ever think of, cars exploding at night, things catching fire. … To remember it and write about it was so much fun.”
These days, he spends most of his time on a farm outside Ontario, Canada, with his wife of 38 years, Gail. The two are retiring from breeding horses for the past 25 years, while Garnet continues to perform a couple times a month.
“It’s about my favorite thing in the world to do,” he said. “When I get on the stage, that’s my comfort zone. I’m pretty happy to be there.”