Mark Rogers takes us on the road with his search for a style.
Mark Rogers began as a singer-songwriter in LA in 1982 and, after a short career, went back to Virginia to raise a family. He rebooted his career with a re-debut album in 2019 on the other side of the country. Originally from the SoCal “Paisley Underground” scene, ‘Rhythm of the Roads‘ has moved Rogers further into the Virginia hills than his first album ‘Laying it Down‘, which incorporated aspects of bossa-nova into a Tom Petty tinged sound. These jazz influences can still be heard faintly on the album, but Tom Petty has firmly taken over.
The album opens with ‘Fifty Dollar Fine‘, a Springsteen-influenced number that reinforces the album’s hint that it is a collection of songs from the road. “If they catch you on the road, it’s a fifty dollar fine” is the first line, and the music is a smooth rhythmic jam of a song, with all the languidness of a Harley Davidson bike. The album quickly defies this expectation by boldly following the opener with a Latin guitar lovesong ‘Waiting for Maria‘.
The third song is the first single, ‘Every Once in a While‘. Penned during the pandemic in March 2020, the track, Rogers says, is a “wishful view into a post-pandemic world where people are gathering again to celebrate with newfound optimism“. The single is a slick, poppy, riff-driven tune that The Gin Blossoms would have been pleased to have written. The next song is the second single, ‘Just so You Know‘, which showcases another style – the more traditional Johnny Cash train-track shuffle, harmonies, and finger-picking.
Midway through the album, and four changes in the sound direction later, ‘Rain Parade‘ finally nails it: Beating drums, lilting semitones, electric guitar circa early Soundgarden, soaring vocals. The album’s midpoint is indeed a high point and made the slow burn confusion of styles that is the rest of the album worth the investment. Rogers has included one jazzy number, ‘Strange Antipcipation‘, for those who appreciated his first record’s Chris Rea blend of bossa-nova and folk-rock.
Overall, the album is an intriguing collection of styles and sounds, albeit less eclectic than Rogers’ debut. It is a suggestion that he will hone his sound further and find his voice through these experiments. The listener is along for the ride on this ‘Rhythm of the Road’, a symptom of his artistic journey.