Joyann Parker – Out of the Dark
Hopeless Romantics Records
Joyann Parker said her new release was made because, “People need music right now.” Her follow on to the well -received debut Hard Love contains eleven new songs that Joyann wrote in conjunction with Mark Lamoine, her guitar player. The recording and production started over a year ago in January 2020 and ground to a halt in March with only five of the eleven tracks completed. The effort began back up again in June, but slowly as fewer musicians were able to be in the studio together. They finally wrapped up the new CD up in August. The break in production allowed Parker to reflect on the project and the title track was born out of the pandemic’s effects.
Parker of course handles the lead vocals, plays guitar on three tracks and keyboard on three more. Mark Lamoine plays guitar, adds acoustic guitar on “Either Way (Paul Mayasich adds slide here),” and backs Parker on vocals on the opening number. Brad Schaefer (bass) and Bill Golden (drums/percussion and one backing vocal) are a steady and sure backline. Rich Manik handles the sax on tracks 8 and 9 and does some flute on the latter, too. Dave Budimir is on trombone and Dave Foley is on trumpet as noted below. The female backing vocalists are Laycey Dreamz and Patricia Lacy (tracks 2 and 11) and the male backing vocalists are Kenny Britt and Rory Hoffman on the noted track. Greg Byers sweetly adds strings to track 4 and the tile track.
“Gone So Long” opens the CD with a nice, slow southern rock twang with acoustic guitar and a stomping beat. The single “Carry On” follows, with a funky beat, soul, blues and gospel overtones. Parker spins Old Testament-based lyrics in a song highlighting the human struggle and our need to stay the course through it all. The pace is quick and the song evokes hope as Joyann lays it out for us. The electric guitar and organ are slick, the guitar solo is great and the backing vocals take us to church. The album continues with “Bad Version of Myself,” featuring more of an R&B and funk sound and offers some interesting harp work, kind of in an old Stevie Wonder style. Parker continues the vocal assault and powers through this one, showcasing her prowess.
“What Did You Expect” is a 1970’s pop rock piece that reminds the listener of Jackson Browne. The cut is lively and allows Parker to have fun romping through the lyrics. Organ and guitar interplay and do an outstanding job. “Either Way” is a sweet rock ballad that Parker displays a softer side but also gives us controlled power in her performance. The slide also adds a nice layer of coolness to the track. Things change course with “Predator,” with Parker giving us lots of Latin flavor and channels a bit of Amy Winehouse; the cupped plug effects on trumpet and the keys and guitar blend into a fine performance as Parker sings with authority.
The piano and trombone come out and Parker takes us to New Orleans in “Dirty Rotten Guy.” Joyann shouts out to the ladies about the kind of man she’s telling us about. “Come On Baby (Take Me Dancing)” gives us a 1950’s popular R&B feel as Parker sings with joy. The guitar and sax play powerful parts and the male backing vocals contrast well with Parker’s strident voice. With “Fool For You” the sax continues to fill things out and the guitar drives the groove as Parker again sings with a controlled form of reckless abandon. The feel is rock and roll, a la the Peter Gunn theme and it’s again a lot of fun to listen to.
The next track we get lots of big, rousing guitar. “Hit Me Like a Train” is described as a Chuck Berry song, but I’d describe it more as southern rock, reminiscent of the post-Duane Allman brothers era with Dickey Betts and Chuck Leavell. There is some wicked slide, rousing piano and killer vocals. The guitar solo and instrumental support is solidly excellent and the song is a fun and wild ride. Parker concludes with the title track where she shows knock-your-socks-off conviction and bares her soul for all of us to see. Guitar and organ are layered in tastefully and Parker knocks it out of the park vocally.
While this is not a Blues album, Joyann delivers a mix of straight-up rock, southern rock laced with a country flair, R&B and funk here. Parker’s voice is sultry when it needs to be, powerful when it ought to be, and it is expressive all the time. She has range and control and feeling with her delivery. She is optimistic and has determination that once this is all over and we achieve some sort of norm that things will be better. Her songs and words reflect that. She quotes Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Parker is grateful and her cup is certainly of the half full and not the half empty variety. Kudos for an album of positivity and hope and more importantly for a great new album for us to listen to!