Despite all the doom and gloom about the consolidation of record companies and tumbling sales in the digital age, I'm constantly amazed by the surging flow of new and accomplished artists and bands. Music—like art or writing—must be, no matter what's going on in the economy. While most of you come here daily for jazz insights, you already know that from time to time I like to share different types of music with you that strike my fancy. Today, I want to tell you about a new folk-rock group called The Parson Red Heads. Their new album Yearling is special.
We tend to think of new recording artists as youthful headstrong creators rushing blindly forward with hopes of instant stardom. We also assume they know little or nothing about the past and find music history a complete waste of time. While this may be the case with some of them, The Parson Red Heads clearly have done their San Francisco homework. Their sound has touches of the Byrds, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Buffalo Springfield and the Youngbloods, with Washington D.C.'s Starland Vocal Band thrown in for good measure.
But in all fairness, the Parson Red Heads' attack and compositions are original and thoroughly modern. What touches me most is the group's acoustic purity, adherence to folk-drenched harmony, and fondness for spirited folk—all with a gentle spin.
Yearling is the band's second CD, and it's beautifully produced. Their voices are gorgeous, and the performances are tightly knit and instantly grabby. The band on the new album is comprised of Evan Way (vocals, acoustic and electric guitar), his wife Brette Marie Way (harmony vocals and drums), Sam Fowles (harmony vocals and electric guitar) and Andy Creighton (bass).
The Parson Red Heads began in Eugene, Ore., in 2003 and moved to Los Angeles in 2005. Last year they moved back to Oregon. How did the band get its name? According to the group's press materials, a friend opened a jazz dictionary and found a reference to "Pearson Red Heads" but misread it as Parson Red Heads. I'm guessing that their pal actually stumbled across the Parisian Redheads, an all-women jazz band in the 1920s who were later known as the Bricktops. There's no "Pearson Red Heads" in any jazz book I'm aware of.
Whatever the name of the group their friend misread, bandmembers discovered only years later that they had the original name wrong. In other words, the band's name has no hidden meaning.
Time Is Running Out, Happy We Agree and I Was Only are charmers—with the latter tipping a hat to the Beatles' Across the Universe. And Burning Up the Sky is a splendidly crafted folk-rock anthem. If you like folk-rock, Yearling has that honest sound that only the Northwest can produce.
JazzWax tracks: The Parson Red Heads' Yearling (Arena Rock) can be found at iTunes or here.
To hear a track and get a free download of Burning Up the Sky, go here.
JazzWax clip: Here's The Parson Red Heads singing Peace in the Valley, which isn't on their new album...