'Other Arrangements' is Parker Millsap's third full release, following his highly acclaimed 2014 debut 'Parker Millsap' and 2016's 'The Very Last Day'. At still only 24, Parker has established a sound and mood that moves across Folk, Americana, Country and Blues, combined with ageless songwriting and a suitably epic voice or, as the current press release simply states, 'An artist who continues to create music without the confines of genre'.
We are big fans of Parker Millsap in our house and his first two albums have been played to death, if that's still possible with digital media. One of the things I particularly like is his ability to have a 'signature' sound whilst ranging across all sorts of musical terrain and topics. Yes, religious imagery and iconography may be recurring themes but it's in the vagaries of relationships where he really soars and, in my view, 'The Villain' from his first album and 'Jealous Sun' from his second are remarkably performed, understated, yet painfully tender vignettes. He also has a voice to die for, sitting somewhere between the earth worn edge of Chris Stapleton and the sweeter side of Jason Isbell, with the bonus of a falsetto that he employs with the minimum of fuss and maximum effect.
We are told 'Other Arrangements' heralds something of a new sound and it 'Plays more like a favourite rock radio channel from the 70's. Moving effortlessly between rock, blues and pop, the new album also showcases Millsap's most dynamic electric guitar playing to date'. However, before panic sets in at the thought of some Boston type AOR revival, its all things as normal with long time compadres Daniel Foulks on fiddle and Michael Rose bass, so the signs are still good.
Opener 'Fine Line' crashes in with a mighty guitar riff and thunderous drums redolent of epic Led Zeppelin as Parker spits out the lyrics over the staccato, see saw rhythm and it's all over in a breathless two minutes thirty nine seconds.
'Your Water' is a slightly slower, more stately affair with Parker's voice to the fore and the song rolls through with a nod to the archetypal sound of 'The Band'.
Title track 'Other Arrangements' is another sparser number, leading with a lovely acoustic guitar line that's doubled on electric, plus sharp drums and bass before Parker's opening couplet "Honey don't pencil me in, I ain't a sketch of a friend". The song then veers off and rocks out a bit in the middle before it settles again into more familiar roots territory.
'Tell Me' is all Country- Soul with its Stax like guitar stabs, testifying vocal and pleading lines "I've got a scar, from bleeding for you". Easy to imagine this as a lost song from the Solomon Burke back catalogue.
Final track 'Come Back When You Can't Stay' is a co write with Jillette Johnson and probably the best song on the album. A gentle acoustic guitar and vocal intro slowly moves into a bitter sweet harmony chorus, full of longing and regret. A little gem.
All the ingredients are here for another Parker Millsap album. Great performances, marvellous voice and the usual clear, organic production values. However, something is missing. Yes, there is a slight shift in sound with his electric guitar more to the fore, but in reality nothing too drastic and certainly not great enough to have anyone shouting 'Judas'!
It's nearly there but just not quite, and falls marginally short of dragging the listener in the way his first two records do. After several listens, a lot of the songs do not 'stick' and to my ears they are not as strongly written as his earlier work, lacking a little depth and engagement.
However, 'Other Arrangements' remains a very good record and if anything Parker Millsap is simply a victim of being judged against his own ridiculously high singer-songwriter standards. And as always, hearing any of these songs played live with his band would be an undoubted joy.
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