What I really enjoy about contributing to this site is the vast and varied review requests that come flooding in from far and wide from artists that you`ve never heard of but after listening to, you come to almost feel you know. One day it`s a doom metal band from Israel, next a psychedelic outfit from Scandinavia and they all individually are enjoyable and if time permits, indeed get reviewed.
One such release arrived from Williamsburg, Virginia in the United States that was screaming to be listened to. It was a six-track extended play from Mark Rogers, a singer/songwriter with an inimitable ear for a catchy well written tune. Mark has been writing and performing his songs since 1974. As an original member of Tennessee Flying Goose, one of Washington DC’s many top bluegrass bands of the 70s, Mark and his mates blended Beatle-ish pop with traditional bluegrass. A move to Los Angeles in the 80’s, he headed a Cosmic American band and played some of the loneliest clubs in Hollywood. An experience that contributed to his decision to spend the 90’s and 00’s raising a family in Washington. Life throws up curve balls and a number of factors contributed to the rediscovery of his music, not the least of which was reconnecting with “the one who got away”. I for one am grateful for this twist of fate.
The first track `No Bigger Fool` is a really upbeat country tinged, pop flavoured tune with a wonderful Hammond organ floating in and around and some cracking guitar inflections throughout. The steady drum beat moving this piece along with the optimistic lyrics leaving you with a real sense of cheerfulness come contentment. The title track `Qualifiers` is a wonderfully layered piece of Americana with Roger`s richly textured vocals leading this reflective musing. I was reminded of an Elvis Costello track that I just couldn`t remember the name of. Superb. A more melancholic piece follows with the philosophical `Imagining` and it indeed had me contemplating my past life experiences. `The Blues Are Passing By` has a jazzy, eclectic beat with a real bossa nova vibe, a song that is very melodic and makes you want to get up and dance to or just sit there with a refreshing drink, nodding away amiably. A nice change of pace within this offering.
I really loved the penultimate track `You Can Lead Me On` the infectious drum beat, wonderful guitar picking and catchy chorus. I can imagine this would be a real crowd pleaser in a live situation, A song that I’m sure Paul Simon or The Traveling Wilburys would be proud to call their own.
As they say all good things come to an end and we have a real poignant number to close this album out. Mark`s heartfelt tribute to his hero John Lennon with `The World Changed Forever. ` not quite a protest song but close, he ingeniously manages to incorporate `Working Class Hero` and `Ticket To Ride` in amongst the lyrics.
This release is a follow up to his 2017 debut solo offering of “Rearranged” and he has managed to entice some superb musicians to accompany him with Larry Berwald, Dave Hufstedler, Jamie Lewis, Andrew Payne and Ryan Gaujot, The music is quite varied with tinges of pop, jazz, folk and rock but predominantly country / Americana. The songs are well crafted and cover personal reflections about falling in love too quickly, watching your children leave home for the first time and speculating about why we`re in the mess we`re in. Quite thought provoking and not in a preachy way. I will certainly be checking out Mark`s back catalogue. The release is aptly named “Qualifiers” and this offering, in my opinion is certainly a contender.
There is a lot to be taken from this release maybe even some inspiration about your own life.
Rating 9 /10