Release Date: Feb 4, 2014
Record label: Relativity
Hailing from Purcell—the self-proclaimed “Heart of Oklahoma”—Parker Millsap has set himself up as the next great hope of the Red Dirt music movement. If you’ve never heard of the movement, there’s good reason. While Oklahoma acts like Jason Boland and John Fullbright have gotten some more mainstream attention in the past few years, Red Dirt music has mostly stayed more or less where it was born—within a 200 mile radius of Stillwater, OK.
You can’t get much more small-town America than growing up in an Oklahoma burg with a population of less than 6,000. But it’s to singer/songwriter Parker Millsap’s credit that he doesn’t let that, or his upbringing in a Pentecostal household, get in the way of writing detailed, personality-driven story songs; ones that tell larger truths of the human condition without coming off as preachy or disparaging. That, combined with the 20 year old’s weathered vocals and knack for combining folk, blues and country into melodies that feel lived in yet not familiar, makes this an early contender for one of the most notable debuts from a new artist this year.
It can be tough for a young, largely unknown artist to open the show for an established band, but Parker Millsap demonstrated how it should be done with his appearance alongside Old Crow Medicine Show in London last weekend. He’s 21, from a small town in Oklahoma, but gave a powerful performance, matching his gutsy and soulful voice against sturdy guitar and harmonica playing, and was helped by his enjoyably original songs, several of which appear on this set. He was brought up in a religious family, and is fascinated by the southern Bible.
Oklahoma-native Parker Millsap was raised in the Pentecostal Church and it clearly shows. A bulk of the songs on this brilliant self-titled debut are slathered in old time, arms-outstretched religious themes – despite the fact that he has since left the church – from the preacher saving trucker’s souls (“Truck Stop Savior”) to End Times “When I Leave. ” Millsap does step outside of the church from time to time, like on “Disappear,” probably the closest thing to a true love song on the record, and “At the Bar,” the Wizard of Oz set in a honky tonk, but it’s the songs about religion that resonate the loudest.
Parker Millsap (Okrahoma) John Fullbright came first and, for Parker Millsap, that's unfortunate. Fullbright burst on the scene with 2012's From the Ground Up, putting Oklahoma back on the musical map with an insightful vision that's curiously multifaceted. Millsap follows with a sound that echoes Fullbright's, a youthful take on folk and blues with a fiery approach.