By Eleni P. Austin

Although it’s been nearly eight years since Jasmine Rodgers released her stunning long-player, Blood Red Sun, she hasn’t been idle. Not only has she toured across Europe and the United Kingdom, sharing stages with luminaries like Scott Matthews, Chris Difford of Squeeze and her dad, she and her band mates (minus her brother Steve and keyboard player Paul Turell, who sadly, passed away in 2017), reunited their beloved ‘90s era band, boa. They recently recorded an album’s worth of new material and are planning an epic tour. But just before that juggernaut takes off, she has released a new EP, Dark Tides, featuring cellist Danny Keane.

Jasmine was born in London in 1976, to Machiko Shimizu and Paul Rodgers. Her mom was a poet and journalist, her dad was already legendary Rock & Roll singer who first made his bones in Free (“All Right Now”), by the mid ‘70s, he was frontman for the wildly successful Bad Company (“Feel Like Making Love,” “Can’t Get Enough,” “Shooting Star”).

She was singing before she could speak, and began learning piano at age four, picking up guitar by the time she was 11. Her older brother, Steve, also displayed the same precocious musicality. Jasmine considered herself a musician, but not necessarily a performer. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, music consistently provided inspiration and solace.


Growing up in a musical household, her influences encompassed everything from British Folk, Jazz, Reggae and Ska, to Led Zeppelin, Django Reinhardt, Prince, Billie Holiday, Nirvana, Blondie, Fugazi, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Cure and P.J. Harvey.

Studying Zoology and Art at school was her priority, music was never a serious career choice. But then her brother formed the band boa and he recruited Jasmine to sing backing vocals. The band was so impressed with her contribution, that she was officially jumped into the boa gang. The four-piece, which lasted in various permutations until 2005, scored a huge hit with the song “Duvet.”

Once boa was in the rearview, Jasmine contemplated a career in zoology, but the need to write and play music won out. She spent the next few years honing her sound by playing live as much as possible. In 2010, she released an eponymous EP. Following a trip to the desert to visit family, she was inspired by the arid magic found in places like Joshua Tree and the Coachella Valley Preserve. Returning to the U.K., she sought out producer Sean Genocky, whose band, Red Racer, had just made an album in the high desert at the storied Rancho de la Luna recording studio. He seemed like the perfect choice to shepherd her new songs through the recording process. Blood Red Sun arrived in early 2016 to rave reviews. Jasmine, along with Danny Keane recently reconvened with Sean at Black Dog Studios to create the Dark Tides EP.

The album opens tentatively with the first two songs. First up is the title track, searching guitar chords are matched by searing cello notes and thunky percussion. Jasmine’s impassioned vocals wrap around lyrics that plumb the depths of our emotions and also, surreptitiously pay homage to the river Thames: “And the magic of the moment that you turn to, and the meaning of the passion that you laid bare to, take the fire let it burn low, you who mean so much to so many, now you’re at his mercy” Feverish cello runs intertwine with broody guitar on the break, underscoring the lyrical duplexity.

“Old Planet” blends braided guitars and mournful cello. Jasmine’s tremulous vocals sound an ecological alarm as global inaction and unfulfilled promises render the earth obsolete: “Sweet sunrise, sweet goodbyes, sweet nothing, they promised, empty words, empty gestures and the ones we miss will be gone.” An elegy of sorts, it’s something of a restless farewell: “Old planet, safe home, sweet solace we hold our sunrise our moon fall, our sweet starry skies above us all.” Danny’s swooping solo runs through a gamut of emotions, from outrage and indignation to tenderness and grief.

The best songs here, “What I Want” and “The Tempest,” veer from the political to the personal. On the former, a deft roundelay anchored by jangly guitars and nimble cello fillips. Jasmine seems unafraid to appear vulnerable, the raw and naked emotions feel palpable: “I’ll give you what I want when I can, and I know it’s not good enough, but I plan to be better than I am, coz I know I’m not good at love, but I’ll try, I’ll try, I’ll try, I’ll try, I’ll try, I’ll try, I’ll try/Coz I want you to want me, I want you love me, I want you to be here.” Danny’s swoony solo on the break dips and sways, equal parts resolute and melancholy.

On the latter, swirly cello is bookended by strummy acoustic guitar, the result is taut and propulsive. Jasmine’s mien is sharp and acerbic as she offers up a romantic post-mortem: “You gave me love, I gave it back to you, we pulled too hard, we couldn’t pull through and now I know just what I mean to you.” Inclement weather serves as a metaphor for the relationship, on the break her wordless vocalese accelerates with intensity, galvanized by swooping, shimmery cello. Suddenly, a rapprochement seems at hand: “You gave me love and it disappeared and I’m afraid I’ll be scarred for years, I look at you with a view to asking why, all I have is a distant sound, a rumbling that throws me to the ground, I look at you and watch you close your eyes/I touch your face, I feel you move away I kiss your mouth I know that you will stay and I know just what I need to do, the storm will go the clouds will fade away, I’ll close my eyes, I’ll find you here to stay, and I know just what I mean to you.” Alas, the reconciliation is short-lived.

Jasmine takes a couple of Blood Red Sun tracks and recalibrates the arrangements to suit the stripped-down instrumentation. Prickly guitar riffs partner with plangent cello on “Follow You.” The longing in her voice is mirrored by steadfast sentiments like “It took a lot for me to walk away from you, the light in your eyes was my view….but all the memories, the years, and all the laughter, you know that I will find a way to follow you.” Danny’s solo is cutting and sublime.

Meanwhile, “Blood Red Sun” feels less dusty, less desolate than the original. Rippling guitars draft off fluttery cello notes that take flight, lowing one minute and sawing the next. Jasmine’s warm contralto remains compelling as lyrics offer a reluctant adios: “Say goodbye, see you again, you who mean so much to me, you’re my friend, and the sun will guide you, oh the sun will guide you.” Danny’s solo shapeshifts from keening to kinetic, adding a percussive kick, as guitars race to keep up. It builds to a frenetic crescendo before powering down.

The EP closes with “Flies.” Flinty guitars sidle across the moody melody, chasing cello runs that drift like willowy contrails. The inspiration for the stream-of-conscious lyrics came about when Jasmine observed a fly trapped between the glass in the London Underground. Later, she witnessed a Butterfly dart through another carriage, only to look up and see another person equally transfixed. These moments made her explore mortality, along with flashes of beauty camouflaged by bleakness. Splitting the difference between stark and bespoke. It’s an ambitious finish to a great record. The most intriguing element of this set is the way Jasmine graciously cedes the spotlight to Danny’s cello. These aren’t duets, per se, but he consistently acts as a wily foil, a faithful ally or a potent Greek chorus. Of course, Danny Keane has always been more than a session player. He’s also orchestrated and arranged strings for disparate artists like Scott Matthews, Bat For Lashes and Lamb (just to name a few). He’s also performed with legends like Anoushka Shankar, Damon Albarn, the Penguin Café and the Heliocentrics. He also found time to release a solo album in 2020. Sean Genocky should also be hailed for keeping the production lean and unfussy.

These days, Jasmine’s plate is pretty full, jam-packed with boa commitments. Happily, she has whipped up a delightful amuse bouche to tide over a fan base longing for a full-course aural banquet.