Singer-songwriter Joyann Parker turned heads with her 2018 debut Hard to Love and returns with even more fervor on Out of the Dark. Minneapolis-based Joyann Parker is a classically trained pianist with a degree in music from the University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse. She sang in church and in wedding bands before she was struck with the blues-soul muse. It happened serendipitously as she was invited to join a blues band after singing Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” at a contest. She claims to have known nothing about the blues until about six years ago but knew instantly that it was what she was meant to do. She moved quickly. In 2015 she and her band, Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea, won the Minnesota Blues Society’s band competition and went on to compete in the IBC. That inspired her to write the songs for her debut on which she sang and played three instruments. She wrote or co-wrote all songs, some with co-producer and guitarist Mark Lamoine. Much of that formula remains in place with she and Lamoine co-writing these 11 tunes.
The album began in January of last year before the onset of the pandemic. By March, the basic tracks for five songs were in the can. After a two-month hiatus, they resumed in June but with only a small number of musicians at a time. full production did not commence until August. It was during the downtime that Parker wrote what could become, were she better known, a quintessential theme song for these times, the title track, in which she envisions a post-pandemic world, wailing intensely. She says,” I’m an artist who shares everything with my audiences. Because I think they can help people, I want them to know the meaning of these songs. I have this message in a song about how we’re all coming out of the dark. Let’s look at how we can better, how we can heal. Let’s look to the light.”
By design she opens with “Carry On,” a blues-rock-gospel rave-up with some lyrics from the Book of Isaiah that serve as a bookend to the title track. “When dark clouds gather ‘round you, and the night is dark long. When the devil is coming for you, carry on, child, carry on.” Parker’s spine-chilling vocals will invariably peg her as a blue-soul singer though she has a penchant for Americana, funk, and Southern rock, all of which appear here. We get Southern rock in “Gone So Long,” “Come On Baby (Take Me Dancing)” channels the spirits of Lloyd Price and Sam Cooke, and “What Did You Expect” has pop elements evoking Jackson Browne. In fact, listening more closely one does not find many standard 12-bar blues in this collection of tunes. “Bad Version of Myself” nods to funk and R&B while “Either Way” showcases her poignant vocals against a spare backdrop and a searing slide guitar.
She’s the voice of the angry woman on the Latin-tinged “Predator” and “Fool for You.” She brings a bit of NOLA in the raucous, horn-infused “Dirty Rotten Guy.” The latter features Professor Longhair devotee, pianist Tim Wick. Parker, gifted herself, sits at the keyboards for only three tracks. Wick also has Chuck Berry’s pianist, Johnny Johnson’s approach to “Hit Me Like a Train.” Throughout Parker’s totally commanding powerhouse pipes prevail. Better yet, she comes across with honesty and conviction, never seeming to try too hard. She’s a flat-out dynamo.
Photo Credit: Jeannine Marie Photography