Parker Millsap 'Self-Titled' - Okrahoma

The debut album of this Oklahoma born singer shows a singer/songwriter with an outlook far beyond his years. He wasn’t even 21 when he released this album. There are religious and old time overtones in his outlook, even if they are about moving on and finding his own worldview away from his Pentecostal upbringing. The opening songs Old Time Religion and Truck Stop Gospel are the sort of dissertation on faith you might have found in Sixteen Horsepower and their frontman David Eugene Edwards. The songs have a strong, compelling and tightly delivered sound that finds multi-instrumentalist Millsap joined by drums, bass, fiddle and brass on several songs. Producer Wes Sharon has got it pretty much right throughout.

From the ballad The Villain, which is stripped back to bass, acoustic guitar and fiddle the music is countered by the clatter and claustrophobia of the aforementioned Truck Stop Gospel and the song’s God-fearing Christian on fire. Elsewhere there is a bluesy feel to When I Leave, which is underlined by plaintive harmonica. Quite Contrary takes a similar path and builds from the guitar intro to something bolstered by bass and electric guitar under Millsap’s fevered vocal. The rhythm section brings the drive and weight into these songs which are as much contemporary folk and country/blues as much as anything. Suffice to say that although many of the songs are taken at a similar pace, the strength of the lyrics and Millsap’s voice hold your attention and make you realise you are in at the start of what should be, with any justice, a long and fruitful career. 

The ten self-written songs here are testament to that. I find new favourites each time I listen to the album, but I also realise how the whole album works as piece and it should be heard as that. If Millsap further explores the fundamentals of his religious upbringing, or if his experiences give him a different perspective, there is no doubting his perception and expressive way with words. His is a voice that resonates with feeling.