There’s a Blue Bird in My Heart
(Recorded and Freed)
3 out of 5 stars
Despite relatively high profile musical supporters such as Steve Earle, Jim James and Son Volt’s Jay Farrar, and an impressive catalog that stretches back to 1996 under the pseudonym Varnaline, alt-country singer/songwriter Anders Parker hasn’t made much of a commercial impact under his own name. It certainly hasn’t been for lack of trying since he has released music that’s as solid as anything in his genre. That’s underscored by the superb if somewhat restrained There’s a Blue Bird in My Heart.
Opening with the ambitious eight minute “The Road,” a piece that shifts from a country lilt to a Crazy Horse styled roar, Parker immediately lays down the gauntlet. He is equally adept at shorter, acoustic tracks such as the lovely stripped down “Silver Yonder.” There is a sense of moving through existence that ties these songs together lyrically, referenced in “Epic Life” and the hopeful melodic strum of “Don’t Let the Darkness In,” oddly the album’s most pop worthy moment.
Parker’s everyman voice, slightly like Jackson Browne’s, is effective on these songs, but it’s not distinctive enough to push some of the less dramatic tunes over the edge. Nevertheless, when he ramps up the energy as on the swampy, pulsating rocker “Jackbooted Thugs” –another guitar fueled, eight minute excursion—the music is so powerful and gripping that the lack of dynamic vocals is secondary to the alternately rugged and moody instrumental twists and turns. The muted production ensures there’s little that reaches out and grabs the listener on the first spin, but the music grows on you with repeated playings and by the end of the album’s conservative 40 minutes, you’ll likely join his high profile friends in singing the still under-the-radar Parker’s praises.