By: Tim LaVoie
This past Friday, Parker Millsap and his rambunctious band returned to Pittsburgh for the first time in two years. Returning in support of his outstanding new record, Other Arrangements, Millsap and crew lived up to their reputation as one of Americana’s great live performers. Though road worn - Millsap thanked the audience for coming out on a school night and seemed legitimately stunned when a fan informed him it was Friday - they showed no signs of fatigue.
Other Arrangements, released on May 4, is Parker’s most accessible and exciting batch of songs put to tape. He and his band seem to have cracked the code. By enveloping more rock and electric blues sensibilities they now possess a record that captures the stomping energy of their live show. Millsap didn’t abandon his country roots, but deftly added ingredients reflecting a growing palate. The 24-year old Oklahoman’s sound remains distinctly Southern, with an ever-present fiddle providing both the burners and slow songs their aesthetic backbone. Millsap’s dedication to this element ensures that no matter what type of creative growth happened over the last two years, everything he does is still deeply anchored in Dustbowl folk tradition.
The Friday show played like a frantic blitz from one song to the next. Though Parker has more than earned the jump in venue size from Club Café, Rex did him a bit dirty by setting up a dozen or so short rows of chairs along either side of the floor. His songs, particularly these Other Arrangement cuts, are distinctly stand-up-and-move-something music. Unfortunately, maybe half the folks at the show preferred to stay in a cross-legged trance rather than join the party, making it tough for Parker to recreate the roccus atmosphere of his 2016 Club Café show.
This odd set-up slowed nothing down from the stage though, as it became readily apparent the Other Arrangement cuts were born for the road. Highlights included the road rage tale, “Some People” and the Jack White-worthy ripper, “Fine Line.” But the peak was certainly the gorgeous duet with show opener Jillette Johnson on the ballad, “Come Back When You Can’t Stay.” They clearly enjoyed recreating the harmonies heard on the album version, as neither of their voices sounded stronger or more convincing at any other time all night.
Both the new record and Friday’s show are indicators of Millsap’s growth and ambition. His revamped and recharged sound has put him in the enviable position of being able to pivot his band and career in any direction he sees fit.
Other Arrangements is available now on all streaming services and wherever music is sold. For more information visit www.parkermillsap.com.