11 songs – 48 minutes
As independent entities, Joyann Parker and Sweet Tea were regulars on the Minneapolis blues scene for the better part of a decade until combining forces two years ago. Now, they’re a dynamic powerhouse unit worthy of a broader audience – as this album and their successful appearance at the 2016 International Blues Challenge clearly shows.
A keyboard player and guitarist with a 20-year resume, Joyann is a sultry alto with a clear voice and powerful delivery. She’s worked with Jimi “Prime Time” Smith and Bernard Allison, among others.
Her musical partners are four of the Twin City’s favorite musicians who began working as a unit four years ago. Guitarist/vocalist Mark Lamoine has a background that includes everything from classic country to heavy metal and the blues. Pennsylvania native Mick Zampogna doubles on keyboards and accordion. Bass player/vocalist Michael Carvale has worked nationally with the Lamont Cranston Band and Davina And The Vagabonds.
They were all brought together by drummer Nick Zwack, who, like Zampogna, has worked with a wide assortment of local talent, including Michael James And The Headliners, a band that’s included Jonny Lang in its lineup. JR Hartley makes a guest appearance on bass for one cut.
Together, they’ve self-produced a solid collection of original material that combines funk, soul and straight-ahead blues. Guitar and rhythm section propel the first cut, “You,” a moody complaint about discovering an unrepentant lover running around with another woman and demanding that he pack and leave. The song serves as a strong introduction of what’s to follow and allows Parker to demonstrate her vocal chops while the band remains strong, but in control throughout.
The mood quiets dramatically for the introduction of “What’s Good For You,” a blues-rocker that suggests again that the man leave – this time because the singer simply isn’t worthy: “I don’t know what’s good for you/But I know it ain’t me.” The music builds in complexity and power as the song progresses, and Joyann’s delivery is memorable in its intensity. A Latin beat introduces the blues “Ain’t Got Time To Cry,” which continues the cheated-on theme and gives Zampogna space for a haunting solo, before the music heats up for “What Happened To Me,” a full-tilt boogie about waking up hungover and being late for work.
“Jigsaw Heart,” a six-minute ballad, follows, describing the pain of loving someone you can’t have, before the propulsive “Hit Me Like A Train,” about being knocked over by a new man without any warning. One bass line powers “Fool For You,” a brisk shuffle, before another introduces “Evil Hearted,” a sultry walking blues about the realization the singer’s mistreated a former lover.
The band gets funky again for “Closing Someone Else’s Blinds,” about waiting at home alone while believing a loved one is cheating at another woman’s home and longing for the man to make up his mind about where he wants to be, before the hard rocking “Go For The Money” delivers the message that cold, hard cash will last a lot longer than material possessions. The set concludes with “Either Way,” another ballad about confusion in romance that seeks a simple answer to the question: “Do you want me?
Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea make a strong debut with this one. Available through CDBaby, it’s highly recommended both for the quality of Joyann’s voice and the musicianship in general as well as the material, which puts new spins on familiar territory as it demonstrates itself to be truly original.