by Sean Jewell ::
Oklahoma has been good to music the last few years. John Moreland, and JD McPherson have released stunning albums. Not to mention it being the home of Wanda Jackson, Leon Russell, Karen Dalton, and Jim Keltner. Workin that red dirt plow beneath ominous rocky vistas right behind them is Levi Parham. These American Blues combines Parhams distinctive raspy voice with smooth b3 organ (someone call Leon Russell, Radoslav Lorković is a beast) and this lonesome land seems to have stirred soulful contemplation. On the album he shouts out John Moreland on “Held In High Regard” a song about finding yourself away from home, when the freedom of success has bound you again. On “Steal Me” he hits a soul chord that I know is gonna make JD McPherson wish it’s a song he wrote.
Parham‘s choice of arrangements and singing style land him squarely in my personal favorite record section: Country Soul. When he’s playing the blues as on the title track, and “Don’t Care None” there’s that upturned inflection at the end of his lyrics, bright piano stabs, and a filligree of guitar notes that turn his country into anthems of perseverance.
Parham writes tricky ballads, too, like the haunting “Wrong Way To Hold A Man”, which confesses being so heartsick he can’t leave a lover whose lifestyle just doesn’t match his. Then there’s “Waiting Game” a song about platonic admiration, and the love it takes to give the object of appreciation her space, with a bass line like a heart beating for someone just out of reach.
Any more polish and Parham might slip into the country-politan Nashville sound (where the record was recorded) but there’s grit in the mix where it needs to be (as on “Chemical Train”), plus he’s spilled his guts and selected a cast of musicians playing for feel. Songs like “Central Time”, and “Gonna Be A Long Day” are wailing two steppers that evince slow living, wandering minds and steady hearts. That’s the best part about it. These American Blues is a sweet spot where Levi Parham‘s crew plays tight enough that he can let it all hang out and just wail.