Mark Rogers – Qualifiers (EP)
With his new extended play Qualifiers, singer/songwriter Mark Rogers cements his place in the indie folk pop scene as not just a reliably strong composer, but as a sonic force to be reckoned with. In six radio-ready, sleekly packaged slices of old fashioned Americana reimagined in high definition stereo, Rogers takes us on a journey through the crisp, contagiously catchy rhythms of the folk music songbook and brings the style blazing into the 21st century. I had the privilege of listening to Qualifiers ahead of its June release and was thrilled to find such an engaging and happy go lucky set of pop songs to stand in strong contrast to some of the gloom and doom of Top 40 radio in 2018.
It’s tough for me to completely categorize Qualifiers as strictly a folk music release, largely due to its amazing versatility and foundational experimentation that allows shades of bluegrass, country, southern rock and blues to shine through with an added panache. Much like 2017’s Rearranged, there’s a cohesiveness that blends one track into the next similar to chapters in a novel rather than tracks on a record. This definitely adds a certain cinematic texture to his lyrical delivery that makes his work flow much better than most, and in the case of Qualifiers, it makes it difficult to stop listening to this EP once you get started. The progressiveness never becomes redundant thanks to the short running time of most of the songs, but I didn’t feel like Rogers was selling us short of content by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a little subtle and understated, but perhaps that’s the most charming quality about his music. Personally, overindulgence from an artist, compositionally or within the realm of the post-production, has always been a big turn off (especially from performers who are building their careers in the underground). Maybe in this modern age of digitalized sound boards and artificially generated tones and beats we need stripped down, raw music more than ever if for nothing else than to ensure that the discord and chaos of live music, that energy that makes us feel alive, continues to exist.
While his life has taken him from one side of the United States to the other, Mark Rogers doesn’t feel like an artist whose style is more indebted to the east coast, west coast or space in between. He’s just a straight up American voice; an amalgamation of a quarter millennia of growth and cultural evolution that has brought us to the richly diverse present state that we’re in now. His music isn’t the first of its kind, and it might not even be the freshest sound hitting airwaves in the 2010’s, but you really can’t dispute that it’s incredibly heartwarming and comforting to have it right now, when it seems like we’re further from our true values than we’ve ever been before. I hope I have the chance to see him play a set from Qualifiers live this summer. It’s music like this that makes for the best soundtrack to those long nights laying beneath a blanket of stars on a soft spot of green American grass.