Billings bassist/guitarist Parker Brown has a debut album that’s pretty darned good. The accomplished songwriter, instructor, and studio musician has crafted a basketful of songs that complement his honed baritone voice. And in testament to his songcraft, they avoid repetition in style and substance.
Assisting him are some of the area’s best musicians. Erik Olson plays keys and alto sax; John J. Roberts, trombone; Brent Koch, baritone sax; Tully Olson, trumpet; Keller Paulson, drums; and Trevor Krieger, fiddles. Chris Smith and Becky Sappington sing back-up vocals; Brown plays guitars and percussion instruments, too.
“People Watching” kicks the album off; its gentle country rhythm is overlaid by fiddle and organ accompaniment. It’s got a gorgeous hook, and Brown shows his flair for unusual lyrics that wouldn’t seem to fit into a pretty melody: “And the Earth is spinnin’ one-thousand-forty miles an hour and we can’t even feel it …”
An ill-omened horn intro sets the scene on the bluesy “Levee’s.” Brown sings, “You go on down to fix your levee, you put up all your bags of sand …” The line is punctuated by a “wow” sound from the organ; next, drums slowly grow louder behind an intensifying horn riff, building tension and creating atmosphere. A nice arrangement.
“Plain” finds Brown singing unison lead with his guitar à la George Benson on this jazzy R&B number. On the bridge, the chord progression modulates, climbing the ladder while the bass pulsates. I like it!
The prayer-like “Trouble Deep” has solemn organ tones; the central character, ruing the death of his father, pleads to God to show himself. It’s got a reverb-y sound, as if echoing in the halls of a church.
The gospel-flavored “If You Go” has a sparse and unadorned melody, sung as if in conversation. Terrific harmony vocals synchronize in concert with Brown’s cadence, swooping in on the melodious chorus. Pretty!
Brown’s melodies offer a simple structure, clean and lovely. There’s a lot to consume here, so get those ears ready.
— Mariss McTucker