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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Peter Roller’s Debut Record, Decades in the Making

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For decades guitarist Peter Roller has been a prolific side-player in the Milwaukee music scene, assisting the earliest incarnation of Paul Cebar and the Milwaukeeans, performing with blues artist Steve Cohen, mandolinist Yank Rachell and the bluegrass band Salt Creek, and accompanying singer Robin Pluer in all manner of duos. Until this month, however, Roller had never released a record of his own.

“My grown-up life just sort of got in the way,” says Roller, a music teacher at Alverno College. “We have two kids, so I did what adults do, and I held down a day job.”


During those years of teaching classes, raising a family and gigging with friends, Roller released just one song under his own name—“Rancho Mirage,” from a notable ’90s compilation called Masters of Acoustic Guitar—but he steadily kept composing, stockpiling songs that now make up his debut album, Blue Fog. He’s been sitting on the album’s oldest number since 1979.


“Since I’ve been playing a different types of guitar in a lot of different settings, the album ended up touching on a number of guitar styles,” Roller says. “There’s a sprinkling of Hawaiian slack-key and slide guitar, and there’s also some bossa nova, a style I’ve been hearing since I was young because my dad had the ‘Girl from Ipanema’ album and not many others. I’m a big Steely Dan fan, so there’s a song that has a little bit of the Fagen/Becker flavor, too.”

Roller’s time teaching at Alverno also informed the record.


“I teach a multi-cultural music appreciation class every year, and a Latin American music class,” Roller says, “so I’ve versed myself in a lot of Puerto Rican music, and that’s seeped into my playing.”

Though Blue Fog is entirely instrumental, its songs follow a traditional pop song structure.

“They’re all song-based with melodies and verse-chorus-bridge setups,” Roller says. “A lot of people think of instrumental as a type of noodly, New Age music, or smooth jazz, but this is catchy, song-based instrumental music.”


Roller’s CD release performance at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn on Saturday, June 12 will open with a set from Roller’s trio, then pair the guitarist with one of his most frequent collaborators: Robin Pluer. Pluer’s set will also feature vocals from her nephew, soul singer Zach Pluer. Blue Fog is available through CDBaby.com and iTunes.