In her review of Mark Rogers’ 2019 album Laying it Down for the Roots Music journal No Depression, Mindy McCall writes that with that project, the veteran, emotionally well-traveled Virginia singer-songwriter “cements his place in the indie folk pop scene not just as a strong composer but as a sonic force to be reckoned with.”
Blissfully, on Rogers’ latest perfectly titled multi-faceted gem Rhythm of the Roads, we get more of the exciting, keeps our ears hoppin’ “sonic force” dynamic and a bit less of the strictly pop-folk aesthetic, which as an overall descriptor is way too limiting for a collection infused so deeply with pop, rock and blues elements and even a tinge of Latin music on the wistful yet hopeful “Waiting for Maria.”
The first song penned for the album, and still its emotional core, is the second single, the decidedly folk-flavored, easy loping “Just So You Know,” whose lighthearted energy matches lyrics that, written early in the pandemic, reflect an optimistic forward thinking spirit we can still cling to today: “Just so you know/Everything is fine/Everybody seems to be improving. . .And all this worry/Doesn’t seem to matter much at all.”
Rogers matches that whimsical vibe on the vibrant pop-rock driven first single “Every Once in a While” and spends the rest of the album darting back and forth from reflectively melancholic (the haunting, deeply percussive rock ballad “Rain Parade,” the blues shuffle “Strange Anticipation”) and undying romantic devotion (the jangly pop-rocker “Not Leaving You”) to trying with all his might to rekindle the flame (the charming, lyrical, country flavored mid-tempo plea, “Shake It Down”).
Thematically, one of the most compelling tracks is the cheery, blues-edged opener “$50 Fine,” which on the surface seems like a straightforward narrative about getting a traffic ticket – but is actually, as Rogers explains it, a realization that in life, “wisdom isn’t free” and “nothing lasts forever,” but “I just want to fly.” In other words, everything, even all we’ve been going through with the pandemic, can lead us to good things if we look hard enough and engage ourselves in a journey along the Rhythm of the Roads.