Music Of The Month: May 2023

Parker Millsap Wilderness Within You

The first time I heard of Parker Millsap was when he opened a Lake Street Dive show at Terminal 5 in November 2014. I enjoyed him well enough –probably even more than usual for an opening act– but I wasn’t exactly bowled over by him. Over the years, though, he’s popped up more and more, especially on the few SiriusXM channels I listen to most, and his work has steadily improved and steadily grown on me. In September of 2021 I touted his version of Vigilante Man, from the Woody Guthrie tribute album Home In This World, as the best song that month, even though the album itself was not my pick.

Well, this month I’m going all in on Millsap’s new release, Wilderness Within You. Gotta admit, the first time I heard the first few lyrics of the first tune, Greetings and Thanks, I thought to myself ‘okay, this is not going anywhere good.’ And to be honest, I still think it’s the weakest song of the bunch. But for what it is (which is Millsap’s take on a traditional prayer of the Iroquois Confederacy), it’s better than it should be, and it serves well enough as a springboard into an album thematically focused on the natural world and our modern-day relationship to it. Or lack of relationship, as the case may be. The range of musical styles, while impressive, results in a slightly-less-than-cohesive record overall. But the individual songs are generally so strong, and the production so well done, that I completely forgive any nitpicks I might have. This record makes me look forward to whatever Millsap does next and, when it comes down to it, that’s all you can ask for.

Get some music in your ears, everybody!

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Music Of The Month: September 2021

Adia Victoria A Southern Gothic

The best individual song from September has to be Parker Millsap’s version of Vigilante Man from the Woodie Guthrie tribute album Home In This World. In addition to a top-notch musical arrangement, the idea of updating the lyrics for today’s times —in true folk-music tradition— is a stroke of genius. And man, those screaming guitars come in and do their job at just precisely the right moment.

Another high-water mark for the month was the release of a found musical document. Thirty-one years ago, Emmylou Harris and (her then band) The Nash Ramblers performed a concert at TPAC in Nashville. The show was recorded, the tape was shelved, and nobody ever thought about it again. Until now, with the release of Ramble In Music City. The Nash Ramblers period is one of my favorite points in Emmy’s career, and their At The Ryman record, which was released in their heyday, is one of only a handful of live recordings I really love. Any other time, Ramble In Music City would quite likely have been my pick of the month.

But this month the nod has to go to Adia Victoria with her new record, A Southern Gothic. It’s laid back, bluesy, swampy, and something in her voice lends just the slightest hint of a jazz undercurrent to a portion of the proceedings. Several guest artists make appearances throughout, adding exactly what each song calls for and keeping the flow going, without ever calling unnecessary attention to themselves. Every song grabs my full attention, and I want to hear them all over and over again. What else can you want from a record?

Get some music in your ears, everybody!