In 2018, I received a CD that sparked the use of words including slick, sassy, simmer, free-spirited, passion, and groovers. Joyann Parker’s Hard to Love became an immediate Fervor Coulee favourite, and I’ve waited with anticipation for the arrival of the follow-up. A couple weeks back, my patience was rewarded. And what words did first-listen evoke? You know it: slick, sassy, simmer, free-spirited, passion, and groovers.
That is not to suggest that Out of the Dark is a carbon copy (what’s that, some ask?) of Parker’s previous release. It does share elements, some unmistakable. Parker’s voice is just as big and soulful, oozing emotion within each note: give “Bad Version of Myself” or “Hit Me Like A Train” a listen to hear what I am laying out. The production is similar, if even more bold—the drums and bass (Bill Golden and Brad Schaefer) throb on each track, allowing one to feel the music almost as vividly as one hears it.
Writing again with Mark Lamoine (guitars), and working with Tim Wick (organ and piano), Parker (lead vocals and select guitar contributions) has crafted just shy of a dozen steaming songs of faithfulness, faithlessness, confidence, doubt, recrimination, and affirmation all of which inspire listeners to shake their arses.
When I listen to Joyann Parker, I hear southern soul and R&B percolated through a hard-assed country filter: outside of songs like “Either Way” and “Carry On,” one doesn’t so much ‘hear’ the country influence as ‘feel’ it, right to the core. Big tent Americana then, this lively and hard-hitting album of rhythm and rhyme. Parker lists Patsy Cline as influence, and that is more than fair. Like Cline and K.T. Oslin, another reasonable touchstone, Parker gives the impression of brooking no patience for trifflin’ attitudes or behaviours.
Which isn’t to mean she is above it herself. While “Predator” serves as a call-to-action encouraging wariness on the part of potential prey, “Dirty Rotten Guy” turns the tables and announces that ‘Miss Goody Two-Shoes’ is ready to leave ‘Mr. Right’ sleeping on the couch and do some short-term lovin’ and leavin’ of her own. The soaring, honest, and still inspirational “Bad Version of Myself” and a slow-burning “Gone So Long” provide more deliberate introspection, while “What Did You Expect” slaps as hard as well, the smack upside the head it is.
Recorded before and during our current pandemic, Parker has had time to refine and redefine her music. Within these recordings, she has found a genuine, authentic sweet spot of hard-driving blues, deep soul, and country honesty. As she sings in “Carry On,” a song of praise and perseverance, “When the dark clouds gather ‘round you, and the night is dark and long, when the Devil is coming for you, carry on child, carry on.”
Joyann Parker’s music slips into unexpected places. Listeners may find themselves comfortably grooving to a jam (play loud, is my advice) only to have a lyric or melody deeply hit them; the raw insight of “Fool for You” is appreciated. “Come On Baby (Take Me Dancing)” and the smoldering title track are additional highlights on an album where each track is notable.
Damn, this is good. An early, unifying favourite during this winter of discord.