Rhythm & Views

Anders Parker

It's a bit of a mystery why Anders Parker chose to release Tell It to the Dust under his own name, for it's a solo album in name only. Parker, who has recorded with a mostly revolving cast of characters as Varnaline for almost a decade, always was Varnaline, and his fifth full-length isn't much of a foray into new musical territory, though it does incorporate strings, blues harp or sax in spots. It even features the extraordinary stickwork of original Varnaline drummer Jud Ehrbar (who plays on almost all of the album). Other notable guests include Jay Farrar, Sara Bell, and Parker's brother, John.

Parker has always been compared to Neil Young, but once you've heard a Varnaline album or two, Parker sounds less and less like Young, or anyone else; his singular voice becomes as familiar and comforting as your favorite blankie on a cold winter night--and it's just as warm, too.

What may sound bland on first listen becomes lodged into your cranium by the fourth. Lyrically, Parker is mostly on his game here, too, projecting drama onto the everyday, though he's not above the occasional clunker: The chorus of the piano ballad "Innocents" is "I know we're only sunbeams / or maybe moonbeams / With you / we are innocent and true / We are innocent and new." But even it is saved by Parker's heartfelt voice struggling to hit the high notes, and a melody so gorgeous and pure that you'll happily forgive him.

With Tell It to the Dust, Parker continues that rarest of streaks: He's never made a bad album.

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