Hard to Love
Hopeless Romantic Records
"Hard to Love" is an easy to delight in mix of soul, blues, country and roots from the Minnesota based vocalist. Parker with guitarist Mark Lamoine and bass player Michael Carvale, produced this release that features 13 songs co-written by Parker & Lamoine. Joining Joyann Parker (vocals/guitar/piano/trumpet) in the studio are Mark Lamoine (guitar/backing v), Tim Wick (piano/organ), Michael Carvale (bass), Alec Tackmann (drums/percussion) and Gunhild Carling (horns on one track).
While she is a classical trained pianist with a degree in music from the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse, Parker sang in Church and a wedding band until she became enthralled with blues and soul, and her band won the Minnesota Blues Society's band competition and in 2015 competed at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. As a performer she has also added old-time country to her repertoire and Parker and Lamoine recently launched a new show, The Music of Patsy Cline.
This is an impressive release full of good songs, solid playing and passionate vocals starting with the blues-tinged southern rock style of the opening "Memphis," where her mix of dynamics as well as her phrasing and clarity impresses while Lamoine adds some biting slide guitar. In contrast to the no nonsense vocal on Memphis, Parker displays her tonal as well as emotional range set against a swampy groove. "Home" is a marvelous gospel original with Parker sings about overcoming the hard times when crying all alone when one will go home where there is peace in the valley. Lamoine adds a superb guitar solo here to accompany her uplifting vocal. "Dizzy" is a driving funky, rocking blues with her emphatic vocal followed by the low-key, heart-fully sung lament "Jigsaw Heart." There is a similar feel to "Bluer Than You," with lovely piano (and a striking solo) as well as her overdubbed trumpet to support her singing, while "Ray" sports an infectious New Orleans groove. Among these strong performances, "Evil Hearted," a late-night blues may be the standout with the superb atmospheric backing and a superb, nuanced vocal, with some jazz-tinged guitar from Lamoine.
After the rock and roll of "What Happened To Me," the album closes with the title track accompanied solely by Wick's piano that again displays her strengths as a vocal with her clarity, timing, phrasing and ability to go from a whisper to a shout without ever sounding shrill or forced. It is a lovely and terrific close to an a very strong roots and blues recording.
I received my review copy from a publicist. While written for Jazz & Blues Report, this review has not been previously been published. Here she sings "Evil Hearted."