Mark Sanders – After Hours
Dream Time Records
CD: 10 Songs, 41 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, All Original Songs
What does the word “open” mean to you? Accessible? Candid? Down-to-earth? All of the above? In tennis terms, an open tournament means that anyone can qualify, and if they do, they can go toe-to-toe against the pros. I’ve been watching the Australian Open, cheering for my personal favorite against the “qualies” who challenge him. So far, though they’ve all put forth valiant efforts, Mr. Daniil Medvedev (#2 in the world) has made the quarterfinals. The lesson here is not that the hopefuls were bad; it’s just that they were outplayed by a tennis demigod.
After Hours, the latest CD from silver-haired bluesman Mark Sanders, is a good, solid effort. It demonstrates that his style of music encapsulates the other meanings of “open.” Fans of Delbert McClinton and CSNY will enjoy its smooth harmonies and casual vibes. However, were you to set it up tournament-style against releases by the actual superstars I mentioned, you’d be able to discern the champions’ handiwork. Enthusiasm and seamless blending of vocals are high points of Mark’s work, unique in its own right. This is a band with a dream of playing the blues, and they’ve already achieved it by producing seven albums. Many have achieved much less.
Joining Sanders (lead voocald, guitar, keyboards and drums) are Suzanne Weiler on backing vocals and Michael O’Brien on bass.
Highlights include the opening track, “The Spell,” and a flawless slow-dance number called “Wonder No More,” hailing back to the 1950s and ‘60s. “Since you let me in, I knew for sure I wouldn’t wonder anymore,” Mark and Suzanne Weiler croon in this groovy duet that would have found a home on several jukeboxes. “I don’t think about what might have been. I don’t have to wonder anymore.”
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to figure out who Mark and company remind me of most: Jimmy Buffett. They have that Florida/Key West/tropical atmosphere going on, lighthearted and suited for background music while sipping margaritas. Their latest offering could use a bit more variety and a bit more bite, but there’s nothing wrong with a melodic, relaxing, summery soundtrack in the middle of winter. Goodness knows we need sunshine to scare away the snow.
After Hours may be a comparative “qualifier,” but at least it’s made the blues tournament!