Joyann Parker, a Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter, brings her big, soulful voice to a set of originals that lean toward the traditional pop side of Americana’s spectrum of musical influences, from rootsy R&B to blues, country and rock & roll. Parker co-writes with her band’s guitarist Mark Lamoine, with whom she regularly performs a tribute show celebrating the life and “The Music of Patsy Cline,” and the duo recorded at their local Kill Room studio, working with producer Kevin Bowe, who’s credits include Etta James, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Lucinda Williams. Out of the Dark is Parker’s second album of original material.
“Carry On,” the album’s first single, has a bluesy Gospel feel, which shows Parker playing the song’s guitar solo in the video of that track. While that lyric calls for perseverance as you “keep your head up and your eyes on him/The Lord’s gonna carry you across that river/Shelter you through the storm/Shield you from the raging fire, protect you from all harm,” she’s not above looking for just the right “Dirty Rotten Guy,” when she wants to “have some fu, so tonight I’m gonna hit the town and get it done,” a song with the appropriate New Orleans’ brass and honkytonk piano by Tim Wick, a Professor Longhair devotee.” She gives “Predator” a Latin feel, while “Come On Baby (Take Me Dancing)” is pure, old school 50’s style R&B sock-hop pop, while “Hit Me Like a Train” leans on a fun Chuck Berry influences rockin’ blues riff.
Parker, Lamoine, and Bowe have added all the studio polish and fine instrumental performances needed to give Out of the Dark a classy, pop rock sheen, from Rory Hoffman’s Stevie Wonder-esque harmonica playing on the funky “Bad Version of Myself,” the sax on the fast blues of “Fool For You,” and pop ballads “Either Way” and the disc’s title track, but the heart of each track is Parker’s strong vocal performances. She can belt on the big choruses, and emotes soulfully, but she shows the kind of restraint that suggest she’s a true professional and knows when a quiet phrase can be more powerful than a shout. While modern pop sounds can feel soulless and anonymous, it’s great to know there are still singers who haven’t lost touch with their roots.
Key Tracks: “Carry On” / “Hit Me Like a Train” / “Come On Baby (Take Me Dancing)”
Artists With Similar Fire: Bonnie Raitt / Mavis Staples / Amy Winehouse
-Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb