Gary Vogensen

REVIEW: Gary Vogensen “Shot of Hope”


Gary Vogensen – Shot of Hope

In possession of an impressive resume of artists he played for San Rafael, CA guitarist Gary Vogensen takes a full-tilt stab at songs that go through the ears, into the head & directly down into the heart. The tradition is alive & well with added sincerity & well-preserved musical recipes.

While Gary doesn’t have a distinctive voice, he has a good voice like Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir. Not strong like a B.B. King or Jim Morrison — it has more finesse than power. It serves the showcase. He could’ve sung in Poco, the Butterfield Blues Band, & Grateful Dead anytime. While not all songs are radiant (though the original song “Don’t Tell Me About Love” is radiant) it’s the guitar playing that’s absolutely stellar.

Lots to enjoy here with a doobie, a bottle of Jack Daniels & a girl in a peasant blouse wearing patchouli. The guitar wizardry is tantalizing, tasty & appealing because each solo fits. The accompanying musicians all percolate. There aren’t any bad songs (though I could’ve done without the oldie “Lies” doesn’t belong on this menu). It’s like you’re at an exclusive Italian restaurant with delectable plates & the menu has a hot dog on it.

Nick Lowe’s classic “Peace Love & Understanding” made famous by Elvis Costello is redesigned as a country-rock ballad & it’s a beauty. Gary sings quite well here. It seems the tonality & key are perfect for his voice. He makes it sound as if this is what the song would’ve sounded like had the Grateful Dead covered it.

Shot of Hope (Drops July 1 – Little Village Foundation) provides listeners with a little piece of nostalgia infused with fresh engaging melodies. Gary doesn’t make the tunes sound like rehashes – he reinvigorates each. His cover of the classic Dead song “Ripple,” is fanciful & a delight.

Gary’s influence came from several lead guitarists in his youth. Among them Ricky Nelson & Elvis Presley’s lead James Burton, legendary Butterfield Blues Band lead Mike Bloomfield, Taj Mahal’s Native American lead Jesse Ed Davis. You can almost hear the influences but not with reliance on their individual style. Gary has his own.

Produced by David Kessner & Gary Vogensen the songs are a potpourri with Grateful Dead/Hot Tuna ingredients. Clarity instead of cliché.

The proficient musicians: Gary (guitars/dobro/harmonica/mandolin), Kevin Hayes & Gary Silva (drums), Steve Evans (bass), Russ Gauthier (mandolin solo/acoustic guitar/backing vocals/banjo), Dave Zirbel & John McFee (pedal steel), Vicky Randell (percussion), Marin Slim, Annie Stocking (backing vocals), Jim Pugh (Hammond B3/piano/all keyboards), & David Kessner (piano).

Admirers of the Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Hot Tuna, acoustic Jerry Garcia Band, Mother Earth will find these songs celebratory. It confirms the style is alive & well. Not as a retro blend but hearty, flavorful & solid.

The 55-minute, 13-song CD is available @ Amazon /
















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