Release Date: Jun 17, 2014
Record label: Recorded & Freed
Genre(s): Alt-Country, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Neo-Psychedelia, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Guitar Virtuoso
One has to give Anders Parker credit for sticking to his guns. Since leaving Space Needle to create Varnaline in the mid-'90s, he's stubbornly mined a vein that melds his considerable abilities as a songwriter and guitar player with a restless ear; he's always loved experimentation and exploration, attempting to articulate all of the music he fancies. For four years he engaged in widely varying projects with mixed outcomes, including his 2010 ambient guitar album, Cross Latitudes; New Multitudes, his 2012 collaboration with Jay Farrar, Jim James, and Will Johnson, putting their collective spin on unseen Woody Guthrie lyrics; and 2013's Wild Chorus, a pop duo album with Kendall Meade.
The title of Anders Parker’s latest album, There’s a Blue Bird in My Heart borrows from Charles Bukowski’s poem “Bluebird”. This is not the first instance of Parker paying homage to the famed poet: on his 2009 double-concept album, Skyscraper Crow, “Horses Running Over the Hills” shares its title with a collection of Bukowski’s poetry called The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills. The closest thing to Bukowski on Blue Bird may be the chorus of the monolithic “Jackbooted Thugs” where Parker exclaims, “Jackbooted thugs have all the best drugs / All the best times I had on someone else’s dime.
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.
Anders Parker flexes all of his considerable creative muscles with his latest—and perhaps best—solo album. Looking back over the breadth of Anders Parker’s two-decade career, there is little he has yet to accomplish or prove. The stylistic range encompassed by his Varnaline work alone is evidence of Parker’s determination to explore, illuminate, absorb and transcend every musical influence he’s experienced, from alt-country and raw folk to pastoral Americana and baroque art rock.
Not to be a dick about it, but thank the gods Anders Parker has rediscovered his electric guitar. His years in Varnaline and his first couple of solo records spoiled us – the marriage of singer/songwriter craft and loud rock was too perfect. The shift (descent?) into softer, more sedate sounds starting with his 2006 self-titled record seemed to enervate his songwriting as much as his studio performances.