Country Jukebox Jury LPs: Parker Millsap and Andrew Beam

Parker Millsap – Be Here Instead

Parker’s mix of soul, r’n’b, blues and country make him a perfect specimen of Bob Harris Country.

An outrageously good vocalist and guitar player, Parker has steadily built a fanbase which allows him to travel the world. I first heard him via his Truck Song Gospel, from his 2014 debut album. As far as I can tell, Parker (who is still in his mid-20s) releases music on his Okrahoma label in partnership with Thirty Tigers.

Opener opener Rolling (‘with the punches…on a dime…down the highway…the windows down’) has some scatting in the middle of its gentle, purposefully rolling guitar. I also like the charming riff of The Real Thing, while It Was You is a Harry Nilsson-type love song full of chords and tenderness.

That song segues into In Between, which is a folk lament about the moments ‘before and after’ certain happenings. Dammit is almost a character song, with Parker performing the final two minutes in a power-rock wail over chords I and IV, singing about secrets, lies and purposes. This will come to life with a full band in the live setting and is a fun way to end the first side of the album.

Side Two begins with Empty, a track driven by a McCartneyish vocal line, while Passing Through sounds like Macca fronting The Band and Always is a funky retro number which supports the theory that Parker is trying to cram every type of arrangement into one album. I would love to see his record collection.

Being Alive closes the album, a buoyant organ-driven song with echoing drums and a chorus of ‘What more can you ask for?’ The coruscating electric guitar in the middle of the song is the album’s finest moment.

Andrew Beam – Selma By Sundown

The title song of this album is a groovy truckers’ song, which places us in the country. Farmall 53 is similarly rural with ‘long days in the heat’ and some muscular guitars and a snarl in Andrew’s voice. Album opener Country Ain’t Dead sounds like 1994 thanks to its Joe Diffie-ish twang. I liked the slow-burning first single You Should See The Other Guy, which is basically Someone Like You by Adele set to a country-rock groove. Might As Well Dance is a familiar trope of the guy finding a new girl to get over his ex, set to some Paisleyish guitar.

Semalee is a writing exercise dedicated to the technique best summed up by Bo Burnham: ‘You’re incomparable like a….’ Andrew’s vocal and the acoustic strum pattern are both very Eric Church-y.

Black and White is another spin on Ebony & Ivory. The vocals of Byron Addison create a nice harmony or, when solo, counterpoint to Andrew, even if the lyric is a little too earnest for my liking. It is redeemed by a small instrumental section with a plucked banjo.

Inspired by the line ‘A honkytonk life’s for me’, he wrote Three Sheets, which begins with a chorus of yo-hos and continues with some naval gazing. The Beam In Me is a smart title for a rocking tune full of character as Andrew’s trying to pick up a lady as his genes and, indeed, his jeans testify.

I imagine the twosteppin’ of Wadmalaw Saturday Night is the only song in the last 30 years to mention both Stagger Lee and Straight Outta Compton. Six-minute closing track Cajun Wind opens with crickets and frogs to set the scene for a bluesy tune. It’s a fine production and rounds off a decent set of songs.

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