Byline: Lisa Rauschart, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Ask for Garnet Rogers in the hour or so before a performance and you won't find him hunkered down in the dressing room. Instead, the Canadian singer-songwriter is most likely to be in the front of the house, hanging out with the crowd.
"I want to do more than just breeze through," says Mr. Rogers, who will be performing at Jammin' Java in Vienna tonight. "I want to find out how people are doing."
The interactive approach has served Mr. Rogers well ever since he was 8. That's when he picked out Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row" on a ukulele, and began "interacting" with the different types of music that came through the family radio: Leadbelly, the Carter family, and the classical music his mother loved.
These days the strapping, 6-foot-4, 48-year-old Mr. Rogers is more likely to be cradling a guitar than a uke, and he's taken up other instruments as well - the violin, for example, and the flute.
While still a teenager, he began touring with his brother Stan. Mr. Rogers continued as a solo act after his brother's death in a 1983 plane accident, developing his own distinctive style and sound.
The Rogers style is introspective, with songs about ordinary people struggling to find different layers of meaning through a world of obfuscation.
"I think my songs are simpler now, about celebrating little things like friendships, or concepts like enduring love and fidelity," he says.
Meanwhile, his powerful yet supple baritone makes him a relative rarity among singer-songwriters. This is one songwriter whose voice is as good as his songs.
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Over at the 9:30 Club on Monday, English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg combines the personal and political in a move reminiscent of music icon Woody Guthrie. He'll be performing as part of the Tell Us the Truth Tour.
"Music gives you an opportunity to put your ideas forward," says Mr. Bragg of the tour, which counts MTV's "Rock the Vote" among its sponsors. "It's a solvent of cultural bias."
Mr. Bragg is nothing if not political, taking issue with European racism as well as the American media's take on …