Mighty Mo’ Rogers – Memphis Callin’ (ENG review)

Soul blues
Mighty Mo’ Rogers – Memphis Callin’

Those of us who have expatriated – perhaps several times – recognize that some places and things are best-loved from a distance. Artists go where they need to feel free. The Blues Prophet, Mighty Mo Rodgers, has lived in France for a few years now, so why should it surprise us that “Memphis Callin’” is his most nostalgic album so far?
When I say “nostalgic” I mean it in the best of ways: not maudlin, but tender, emotional, and understanding of a well-earned place in musical history. Rodgers, a gentleman and a scholar, as always, schools us most entertainingly, with grooves and a magnificent brass section.
“Memphis Callin’” is an album of old-time soul, mostly recorded in Italy, with a couple of authentic vintage recordings, “San Francisco (You’re a Holiday)” and “Heart Be Still,” recorded by Rodgers in LA in the late 1970s alongside a few of Booker T’s colleagues.
“Memphis Callin’” touches on familiar themes, from Memphis soul food and Sun Records (title song) to keeping Dr. King’s dream alive (“The March”) and the young realization of how music was going to set him free (“Sing for your Supper”). “The Chitlin’ Circuit” pays tribute to the venues throughout the eastern, southern and upper midwestern US (now called the urban theater circuit by publications like Ebony), which provided acceptance to African American entertainers in the era of segregation.
“Love Love Love” waxes on the theme of “what it means to have the blues”; in “Bad, Bad Luck,” he opens the book of Job – possibly the world’s first bluesman – looking for answers to his own troubles, conscious of his place as just another player in the world’s long history of woe.
Mighty Mo Rodgers has a way of coaxing a tear from my eye on at least one song from every album. This time, I got choked up about “If Reincarnation is True,” a traditional slow jam dedication to a genuine soul mate, cloaked in a very original name. It took me utterly by surprise, and this is, for me, Mighty Mo at his best.
The guitar work on “Indiana (Calls My Name)” seriously grooves, and if I were handing out Grammys, I’d give Rodgers a prize just for rhyming “Hoosier” with “Lose her.”
And thankfully, he hasn’t lost his mystical streak. “Woman of the Rain” reminds me of folklore I grew up hearing in the American southwest, with tales of brujas running through fields in the rain, like cousins of La Llorona, haunting us much more benevolently than the Ukranian painting by the same name.
Big thanks to Gilbert Guyonnet of “Just a Little Blues” on Radio Clapas, Montpellier, for bringing Mighty Mo Rodgers to the Montpellier Blues Festival, and hopefully inspiring the next generation of bluespersons in a town I still think of as one of my hometowns.

Ilene Martinez
CEO Bayou Blue Radio

Thierry’s notes:
We can no longer count the number of awards that Mighty Mo’ Rogers has received throughout his career, and it is quite likely that this latest album being released will also receive its fair share of accolades. He is a man of culture(s), with a capital “S” because in the broadest sense, Memphis Callin’ resonates and lingers in our minds from the very first track.
I won’t dwell on this for long as I leave it to Ilene to provide the review, but for me, and this album proves it, Mighty Mo’ Rogers is one of the most important contemporary blues artists. And if you want to know which song I like the most on this album, it’s “Love, Love, Love” – a beautiful story, much like the one I live with my charming wife, Ilene. “Love, Love, Love” is what everyone should experience to be happy… So thank you, Mister Rogers, for creating such beautiful albums, and I hope to have the joy of crossing paths with you one day.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, July 15th 2023