Phases and Stages – Roger Dale (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

We are so used to listening to country music that exposes its blues roots or plays out its rock and roll dreams that we forget that it is a genre that can also exhibit a more soulful and seductive side. And that is exactly what Roger Dale does on his latest album, Phases and Stages. Forget the image of the cowboy-hatted, pick up trucker driving his broken heart off down the road and into the sunset, this is country music that embraces a more sophisticated soul sound and some neat pop sensibilities.

The opener, Boys Like Me, sets the stage perfectly, an understated ballad that reminds the fairer sex that there are still some great guys out there and Love Don’t Love Me (Like It Used To) is not only a great title but a track that pushes into soul-pop and nostalgic blues territory as well as having mass appeal to mainstream markets.

Why Don’t We is a gorgeously emotive duet, two voices spiralling around each other in deep and intimate conversation, the music behind almost taking a subservient role to the dynamic and drama created as the boy/girl vocals delicately dance around each other.

Having built up slowly, the album ends on a big finish, Second Chance blending punchy sonic crescendoes with defter lulls and One World, One Love is an epic slice of anthemic country-pop calling for unity and understanding.

Not only is Phases and Stages a great album, but it also reminds us that country music is a broad genre with room for many sounds and styles. Sure, you might like the glitz and glamour of the Grand Ole Opry or the traditions of the campfire cowboy songs or the wealth of truck driving music to be found under its roof but if you want something soulful and soothing, something that is both lyrically intimate and universally relatable, sung by someone who breaks down generic borders and sings from the heart, then, Roger Dale is exactly what you are looking for.

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