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Published On: Thu, Jul 14th, 2016

Parker Millsap: The Very Last Day

parkerParker Millsap
The Very Last Day
(Okrahoma Records)

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Parker Millsap began singing at church at age five and spent most of his teenage years learning how to write songs. Maybe it’s this jumpstart on his musical development that has enabled him to pen lyrics with the kind of wisdom usually only heard from wily veterans. The 23-year-old Oklahoma native’s sound works primarily at the intersection of gospel and blues, though his songwriting approach is more akin to folk storytellers like Robert Earl Keen and John Prine. Millsap’s latest album, The Very Last Day, recently earned a nomination for 2016 Album of the Year by the Americana Music Association (also nominated were Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free and Chris Stapleton’s Traveller).

Following his acoustic-focused debut album, Palisade, for which he shares a dual credit with bassist/longtime musical partner Michael Rose, Millsap released a self-titled record that uncovered a twangy-yet-soulful sound of which the song “Old Time Religion” is the best example. He also showcased his writer’s intellect with a play on a nursery rhyme “Quite Contrary” (“Lost your pocket full of posies/Pawned your rings and cut your roses”).

His latest album features his most robust sound to date, achieved with the help of producer Gary Paczosa, a top-shelf engineer who has collaborated extensively with Alison Krauss (who owns as many Grammys as anyone else alive today). On Millsap’s first two albums, guitar instrumentation is strictly acoustic. On The Very Last Day the additional layering of electric strings adds a crisp harmony between its blues-driven rhythms and the raw power of Millsap’s voice, which booms over an immense range on his cover of the Stones’ “You Gotta Move.” His storytelling approach makes the listening experience even more vital, as he puts himself in the shoes of imagined characters with real-life struggles: “Heaven Sent” is a young man’s plea for acceptance of his sexuality from his father and “Hands Up” follows a military vet driven to the brink of theft. Treat yourself to this new record and you’ll have no trouble understanding why Millsap is already earning recognition as a top performer in his genre.

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Parker Millsap: The Very Last Day