CD Review: Maura Rogers and the Bellows “Always”

For Maura Rogers and Meredith Pangrace, it was a match made in heaven. Or maybe destiny. Whatever it was, the two women got to know each other. And then, because of a medical emergency when Rogers needed a second chance in life, Pangrace was there for her. Once that situation was handled, a relationship that was blooming became stronger and so did a songwriting partnership. Along with their relationship, Maura Rogers and Meredith Pangrace create music as part of a band known as Maura Rogers and the Bellows. Until just recently, the band had released three albums: 2012’s A Good Heart Will Break, 2015’s In Light and 2016’s Live at the Beachland Ballroom.

Today, Maura Rogers and Meredith Pangrace are still creating music under the Maura Rogers and the Bellows moniker, a name that came about because of the inclusion of the accordion played by Pangrace. With Maura Rogers on guitar and vocals and Meredith Pengrace on keys and accordion, the duo is joined by the rest of the band which consists of: Al Moses on lead guitar, Quinn Hyland on bass, and Jeff Babinkski on drums. Together, this band is currently creating music that could fall into the Americana genre as it draws from several different musical styles and seems to have been inspired by the music of several different eras of music as well. It is with this version of the band that has created the fourth and newest release under the Maura Rogers and the Bellows moniker called Always.

The Always release was actually a form of therapy in and of itself for Maura Rogers. The reason for that is because the music for the album was recorded during the time when Rogers was in kidney failure. The band went into the studio to get the album recorded before things got worse for Rogers. Luckily, things worked out, Rogers has a working kidney and the band’s newest album was released. The drive to finish the project may actually have helped Rogers survive the day-to-day wait until she had the operation that saved her life.

Always from Maura Rogers and the Bellows begins with the track “Moses and the Tide”. The track begins with the sound of the bass and drums to create a strong beat. That beat is soon joined by the accordion from Meredith Pangrace. The combination of music feels very gypsy-like in nature. Add the rest of the instrumentation in and what results is a track that brings to mind Sixties-era Jefferson Airplane. You can almost imagine “Moses and the Tide” being played alongside a track from Jefferson Airplane such as “Go Ask Alice”.

The band continues a slight retro feel to their music on the second track called “Let Go”. While this track doesn’t have the same Sixties vibe as the previous song, this song still feels rather retro in nature as the song contains a light Rock and Roll approach. The Lite Rock of the track is mixed with Maura Rogers’ vocals that had a somewhat familiar vibe to them as her vocal delivery recalls that of singer Linda Ronstadt. Together, the track feels like it would have been right at home at AM radio back in the seventies.

For the first few seconds of the track “Anything At All,” Maura Rogers and the Bellows create a passage that feels like an acoustic version of “Sweet Child o’ Mine” from Guns ‘N Roses. Soon after that, however, the track takes on a musical direction with a strong Folk-Rock sound to it. The track contains an easy pace to the music which lends itself well to the sadness in the lyrics about one person reflecting on a relationship that has been played out. Lyrics such as “Do You Feel What I Feel? Do You Feel Anything At All?” give the song its sad feel.

Before Always from Maura Rogers and the Bellows was released, the track entitled “92 Days” was used as the first single off the release in order to promote the still-upcoming album. The title of the track refers to the amount of time that Maura Rogers was laid-up recovering from her kidney transplant back in 2012. The lyrics of the track reflect some of the things Rogers thought about when recovering, especially how love can truly affect the outcome of certain things. The song contains a Folk-Rock musical approach, but the electric guitar on the track pushes the song closer to the Rock and Roll side of things. “92 Days” ends up being a rather emotional track but also one of the strongest moments on the album.

The track called “Tequila” is one of the more unusual songs on the Always album. Having a lyrical content about losing one’s inhibitions after a few drinks, the track finds the band creating a track with a Folk-Rock/Zydeco blend. While the musical blend sets the track apart from the rest of the release, another thing that is different is the atmosphere around the song as the track feels more like a group effort than the rest of the release. The reason for that is the inclusion of more than just Maura Rogers’ vocals as both female and male vocalists take turns singing parts of the song. And when many and/or all of the musicians creating the track join in on the background vocals, it helps give the song a completely different feel than what came before.

One of the more emotional tracks comes late in the album. The song “There’s a Fire” slows things down on the Always release as Maura Rogers sings of the passion in her relationship. The slow-paced track features a Folk-Rock feel to the music with a slight touch of Blues to give the music that emotional edge. The slow pace and tempo of the song match up well with the emotional feeling to the lyrics and helps to create a track that just begs the listener to grab their lover and start a slow dance.

The new release from Maura Rogers and the Bellows comes to a close with the title track of the album. For the track called “Always,” Rogers creates a song that feels more like poetry set to music than just a regular song. Inside of that poetic lyrical approach, Rogers writes of inviting the one she loves in to create a couple; a family, as she says in the lyrics. As far as the music of the track is concerned, Rogers and the rest of the band combine to create a slow-paced, expansive song that takes on the feel of a jam-band like track in the style of bands like the Grateful Dead and/or Phish as several solos are taken within the song. The extended nature of the music and the emotional feel of the lyrics to the song “Always” create a song that feels just right as the final track on the release.

Maura Rogers and the Bellows released their current album of Always earlier this year. Since that time, Rogers and the band have continued to create music. In fact, the band just recently released their latest song entitled “Lullabye”. As you might imagine, “Lullabye” is a slow-paced track that deals with the love between mother and child. This song was originally released by Maura Rogers almost a decade ago as she had placed it on her Get Up Girl album when she was still a solo performer. But since the lives of Maura Rogers changed not that long ago with the arrival of two twins, one boy and one girl. That event made it the perfect time to revisit the track and that is exactly what has happened. 

 Always from Maura Rogers and the Bellows is a strong release that makes good use of the various musical influences found in the band’s songs. Those various influences of Jazz, Blues, Country, Folk and Rock ‘n’ Roll. The combination of those styles help shape the album and create a release that is firmly situated within the music genre of Americana.

As a way of promoting the Always release from Maura Rogers and the Bellows before the album was released, the band put out the song “92 Days” as a promo track. Here is the video to that track. 

Maura Rogers and the Bellows is currently promoting their newly recorded version of the track “Lullabye”. The track is available only through the band. You can reach them through their Facebook profile.  Here is the live version of the track recorded in concert at the Music Box Supper Club the night of the track’s release.

To hear the Always release from Maura Rogers and the Bellows, click on the album cover below for the spotify profile for the release:

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