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Joyann Parker: Roots
(Hopeless Romantics Records, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 10/4/2023)
This big country is full of outstanding regional artists, who have established a reputation in their home territory, but for whatever reason, have not really broken into the national scene, though many of them are world class. This week, we have one such, a versatile singer-songwriter and guitarist from the Minneapolis area, Joyann Parker, whose new album is called Roots.
Joyann Parker grew up in Wisconsin, something she refers to on one of her songs on the new album, and has been a presence in the Upper Midwest. She is impressive in her versatility. Though her new album emphasizes blues and soul, she also does live shows on women in country music, she does a tribute to Patsy Cline, and also does a show on acoustic country Gospel. But hew new album, Roots is rather well-named, spanning the components of roots rock, including blues, soul, a couple of ballads and even a touch of bluegrass. And just for good measure, there is a reggae influenced tune. They are all originals by Ms. Parker, backed up by a tight band with some added horn players, and Gospel-style backing vocals. Her main musical collaborator on the album is guitarist Mark Lamoine, who also works with Ms. Parker in her acoustic duet shows. The band on the album, which includes keyboard player Tim Wick, bassist Chris Bates and drummer Bill Golden, is a tight, tasteful group who rises to the occasion in the numerous stylistic directions the album takes. Ms. Parker also handles it all with aplomb, belting out the blues tunes, and also putting some emotion into the ballads, and can also impart some attitude, when it comes to the inevitable blues songs about two-timing scoundrels.
The generous 13-song album leads off with one of the its strongest rockers, the title track, Roots, showing Ms. Parker’s power as a vocalist. <<>>
Following is probably my favorite track the album Faintly Optimistic with a great Memphis style groove, and clever lyrics. The horn section and backing vocalists are an strong addition. <<>>
Wash It Away is a classy and soulful ballad, about the end of an affair, with the full band and backing vocalists providing reinforcements. <<>>
A further facet is on display on another great piece of writing, a song called Closing Someone Else’s Blinds on the perennial blues topic of infidelity. <<>>
Juxtaposition takes a further musical turn with its reggae beat, and again the lyrics put an unfaithful character in his place. <<>>
As if that were not enough, there’s a song called Ain’t Got to Time to Cry on which Ms. Parker and band throw in a little tango influence for more lyrical excoriation of a cad in the song. <<>>
And the album takes another side-trip on the song Miss Evangeline in this case to country and bluegrass with some appropriate mandolin. In the tradition of such things. Miss Evangeline is the temptress who lured away her guy. <<>>
Another highlight of the album is a song called Stay Home Mama a kind of tongue-in-cheek blues about the very real travails of being a mom. <<>>
Roots the new album by Minnesota-based singer-songwriter, Joyann Parker is an impressive recording showing a remarkable degree of versatility, including a lot of blues, rock, ballads with splashes of bluegrass and reggae, and it’s all done surprisingly well. Ms. Parker is a strong vocalist who adapts to the genre hopping music on the album, and puts in a strong performance throughout. The all-original material by Ms. Parker is first rate, both musically and lyrically for the genre, with perhaps a slightly wider word vocabulary than most old blues songs. The band is tight, and the production is crisp, with the added musicians are used no more than necessary.
Our grade for audio quality is close to an “A.” The sound is clean and punchy, and we are spared unnecessary studio effects.
Joyanne Parker is another of those regional performers who deserve wider recognition, for world-class music. Hopefully, through this album, she’ll will find that broader acclaim.
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