Jesse Roper is a guitarist who wears his influences on his sleeve. Many guitarists can say the same thing. But Roper has qualities setting him apart from many other modern blues players heavily influenced by Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan; he has natural funk and soul. It’s not enough knowing how to play great licks and getting a good tone. It’s having swagger, soul and a little extra something. Jesse Roper has those ingredients in spades.
Red Bird is the new album from Jesse Roper, who previously billed his releases as The Roper Show. As he says in the liner credits on the cd: “Red Bird is my 3rd attempt at good music….this album is the most personal bit of writing I’ve ever done.”
Jesse Roper rips it up live on stage. We’ve seen his wild and high energy sets at Rock The Shores, V.I.C. Fest, and his Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan shows at Upstairs Cabaret. And Roper is cookin’ on his new record. He proves he’s more than just a live performer. He has lots of depth and isn’t a one trick pony. He’s an adventurous guitarist and tackles many different styles. Roper goes beyond the Jimi and Stevie Ray influences, both oozing from him naturally. The Metchosin, B.C. based artist reminds us he’s a singer & songwriter in addition to being one helluva talented guitarist.
Hail Mary was the first song The Q! played from his debut album, “Son of John” (2013). Red Bird has some songs similar to Hail Mary’s razor-sharp and fatback groove, with bass and rhythm guitars doubling-up on blues riffs. Roper opens the album with Red Bird laying the groundwork for all the riffs and zig-zags to follow over the next 11 tracks on the album. It’s almost like Roper is getting something out of his system right off the bat as a warm-up. The first track has Jimi’s Band of Gypsys punchiness and Roper pulls out all the stops.
100.3 The Q! introduced listeners to another Roper song, Shiny Round Nickel (from “Son of John”) and with Any Time of Night he’s expanded on the same theme. It’s in the tradition of a Colin James soul ballad, something James has done so well on his recent albums. Jesse has a rich voice and his heartfelt vocals match his emotional lyrics. As Roper says in the liner notes to the album, “I want to thank and also apologize to Willow Rose for the content of these songs. You were my inspiration for most of them….”
Quality Time is an infectious and genuinely legit reggae/island beat composition. It’s complete with punctuating Rasta organ, lovely background vocals, and an unexpected change in tempo before the track ends. Roper could record a whole album of similar reggae vibes and he’d attract a new legion of Victoria Ska Fest fans.
Other highlights from Red Bird include Hideaway, a tight track hinting at an Allman Brothers jam ready to blast off. Come From Nothing is an acoustic jump blues, rag and delta blues showcase. It shows another strong quality of Roper; he doesn’t need gimmicky flash or guitar pedal effects to show sympatico with his guitar. Whether he’s playing electric or acoustic, the guitar is an extension of himself and Roper knows his way around the fretboard.
The standout track comes last with Journey Man. Starting sparsely on acoustic guitar, it evolves into a workout the same way Red Bird starts the album; chunky rhythms dovetailing into punctuated riffs, at times complicated but always funky. Its a rush hearing Roper do some heavy riffing with his rhythm section.
Kudos to album co-producer (along with Roper) Joby Baker. The Victoria producer captures Roper’s live onstage sound while fleshing-out some of the more adventurous tones, textures and details Roper may have only hinted on previous albums. Baker is also a standout on organ and picking up other instruments.
This is a career defining album showing Jesse Roper has arrived.
This album review originally appeared on The Q!’s website in January of 2015.