Ray Manzarek and Roy Rogers are two venerated "California acid heads" on a mission: to have fun, expand consciousness, and bring the blues into the 21st Century. "We've run the 1-4-5 chord changes," says Manzarek. "We've all done that, and that's marvelous. But we're just looking to expand the paradigm."
On the pair's new record, 2011's Translucent Blues, Manzarek, the keyboardist of Doors fame, and Rogers, a renowned blues guitarist who has worked with such legends as John Lee Hooker, stay faithful to the essence of the blues while getting frisky with it at the same time.
The feel is bluesy, for sure. But unlike much contemporary blues music, the arrangements are unpredictable and spacious, allowing for unique grooves to develop, and experimental soloing.
The songs are refreshing in the lyrical department too. Lyrics, says Manzarek, are usually an afterthought in blues music. Turning that on its head, Manzarek and Rogers used contributions from well-known poets as starting points for the songwriting.
Translucent Blues is not Manzarek's first whirl in combining blues and poetry. He considers the project an extension of what he did with Jim Morrison and the Doors. And the impetus to do so is quite simple:
"We like words, and we like to have them make some sense and have them be about something," he says. "So we used the words of poets, who are invariably always talking about something."
Among the poets whose words were used are the late Jim Carrol, best-known for writing The Basketball Diaries, and beat poet Michael McClure, who used to run with Ginsberg, Kerouac, and the boys.
While Translucent Blues succeeds in pushing musical boundaries and being meaningful in its lyrical content, it also happens to be very catchy. "We've been on the planet long enough to know how to be soulful and entertaining at the same time," says Manzarek. "I have nothing against people coming along with us on our trip, and if that's called entertainment, so be it."
In describing that trip, Manzarek quotes another beat writer, William S. Boroughs: "'When two artists collaborate, a third mind is created.' So that's what Roy and I do. We create a third mind and welcome you to join us."
If you'd like to join them, you'll have a couple of opportunities this weekend. The Manzarek-Rogers band plays Wannee Festival in Live Oak on Thursday and the Bamboo Room in Lake Worth on Friday.
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Wannee Festival 2012. Featuring Allman Brothers Band, Furthur, Govt. Mule, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Mickey Hart Band, Manzarek-Rogers Band, and many more. April 19 to 21 at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, 3076 95 Drive, Live Oak. Tickets cost $199.50 to $229.50. Click here.
Manzarek-Rogers Band. 9 p.m. Friday, April 20, at Bamboo Room, 25 S. J St., Lake Worth. Tickets cost $32. Click here.