Mark Sanders – The Night Rolled On
Dream Time Records – 2019
10 tracks; 40:11
Multi-instrumentalist Mark Sanders shows off a strong sense of song on The Night Rolled On, his album of gentle, blues-influenced songs featuring clever arrangements and vocals reminiscent of James Taylor.
The Night Rolled On is Sanders’ seventh album. He’s a sound engineer, which shows in the album’s fine production. Sanders does everything on the album except play bass and sing background vocals. There are also quite a few horns on songs that are actually keyboard-created, but listening to the album, it sounds like a full band. Sanders is also a restrained yet lyrical guitarist, giving his songs a lift, providing interest and contrast for the music, while keeping his leads short yet compelling. It all makes for an album that feels built for listener comfort.
Sanders is at his strongest in the album’s more soul-oriented moments. The tracks tend to be slower and low-key across the album, and when he leans into that style, it makes for some nice moments. “New World” has a 50s sound, similar to The Platters’ “The Great Pretender.” Backup singer Suzanne Weiler fleshes out Sanders’ vocals, making for a sweet track. “Long Road Blues” is a slow blues that lets Sanders stretch out his tasteful guitar playing, the only moment on the album that might be considered showing off.
Sanders takes a balanced approach to his vocals, but sometimes the blues needs to be a little sloppy. “Good to You” is a slowed-down shuffle that sounds like Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Further Up the Road.” Sanders begins his song with the lyric, “I break my back ten hours a day / Work like a dog just to make my pay / When I try to do what I want / You start acting like some debutante.” There are a lot of emotions in those lines, from sadness to anger to resentment, yet the vocals remain even, with Sanders not translating the feelings of those lyrics into his vocal delivery. It’s a missed opportunity for him to connect with the words, but also to help his audience understand the song’s center.
While the blues desperation isn’t always apparent in his songs, Sanders is a talented singer, arranger, and songwriter. The tunes are catchy and the production is pristine. His work with background singer Weiler, which takes place across many of the album’s tracks, is also notable, with, perhaps, Weiler’s voice helping Sanders to better better express the emotions behind his tracks.