Mark Rogers’ – Qualifiers

BANDCAMP: https://markrogers1.bandcamp.com/album/qualifiers

With a glowing organ and a swanky guitar lick, Mark Rogers’ latest release Qualifiers doesn’t waste anytime kicking into full swing with its opening track “No Bigger Fool,” an easy-listening blues rock number that is bound to put a smile on your face and a swing in your step. In the song, Rogers jubilantly celebrates his carefree attitude in response to a world that’s often too strung out and hung up on its own anxieties to really appreciate the little things that life has to offer. It sets a wonderful tone for the album, and immediately gives us an idea of how much of a treat we’re in for.

The title track features a blistering hot, country-inspired riff that is beautifully punctuated by Rogers’ harmonizing vocals, which seem to blend in with the instrumentation almost too perfectly. All of the rich, colorful tones in his voice seem to meld together to make a beautiful wall of sound that washes over us and carries us down a lazy river of catharsis. Even when he’s looking inwards in a reflective stanza, Mark Rogers emanates such an endlessly positive vibe that it’s impossible not to fall in love with his infectious, gentle blend of roots-inspired pop/rock.

In “Imagining,” we slow the tempo down and get a glimpse at our star’s more pastoral side. The some upbeat, rollicking sensibility is there, but it’s far more toned down on this track, allowing us to immerse ourselves in Rogers’ poetry without being too heavily distracted by the backing band. That said, the band is so well synchronized that it’s easy to forget that they’re even there, or that we’re even listening to a CD instead of sitting beside a fire somewhere listening to a gifted storyteller spin his yarn. “The Blues Are Passing Me By” follows up “Imagining” with a bit more of a jazzy, eclectic beat to slowly draw us out of the rainy weather and back towards the sunshine. It’s by far the most experimental song on Qualifiers, and although some casual music fans might question it’s placement at track four, I think it actually works well and breaks up the monotony that might set in were there not a break from the more straight forward pop/rock on the first half of the album.

“You Can Lead on Me” takes us back into bucolic territory, breaking out those countrified folk string arrangements one more time for a miniature hootenanny that has a swift, almost post-alternative pace that makes it sound like more of a gallop than what comes standard in a traditional 4/4 time signature. By the time the contemplative “The World Changed Forever” comes to poignant close, it’s almost like we’ve taken a vacation from reality in the past half hour. Whether you’re a big fan of melodic, soft country music or just clean cut roots music with a sweet, friendly pop bend to it, I have a feeling that Mark Rogers has got something to tickle your fancy on Qualifiers. As has been the case with all of his work to date, it’s pretty much guaranteed to leave you feeling a little more inspired and uplifted than you first were when you sat down to have a listen, and in 2018 you really can’t beat that kind of bargain.

Sebastian Cole