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John Parker - Self Titled

Running Monkey

12 tracks Total time: 50:05

John Parker was the president of California’s Santa Clarita Blues Society, an indefatigable fund-raiser for cancer research, and founder of three blues bands. He also suffered from cancer himself, and died of the disease only three days after he’d put the final touches on this CD, Self Titled. Devoted to his music and his fans, he even performed a concert in freezing weather only 21 days after he’d had a liver transplant!

Self Titled is 12 tracks of contemporary electric blues that, while many of the songs do rock, is solidly blues, not blues-rock. Three of the songs are not John Parker originals, and the only obvious cover is that of Louis Jordan’s classic “Early In The Morning.” But even here there’s a notable originality, as the song is rendered not as the standard jump blues of the original, but as a contemporary blues with a rhumba beat. Of the other two non-originals, “I’ll Never Be Free” is solidly in a soul groove, while “I’ve Got The Blues Baby” is a slow, ruminative blues of getting it from all sides, from finances to a nasty woman.

John Parker has a flair for blues lyrics, and that shows well on his nine originals. Only four of the songs deal with that perpetual preoccupation of the blues, love and women, good and bad. “Loves Gonna Find You” talks of the search of love, “My Valentine” celebrates his good woman of many years, “Hopeless Romance” talks of a bad love relationship, and “Queen Of The Damned” is a strikingly different and original blues of a bad, bad woman.

But the other John Parker originals talk of other things. “I Got Me a New Car” tells of the woes of his old car, and how he’s got to replace it, while “The Price Of Fame” takes an ironic look at being as “famous” as—John Parker! “Waitin’ For The Water To Rise” is a tale of woe that seems to be at least indirectly inspired by the destructive flooding of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. Two songs are autographical paeans of hope despite adversity that are obviously inspired by his fight against cancer, “I Ain’t Gonna Give Up” and “Forget All My Fears.”

Parker plays lead guitar throughout, with plenty of deliciously bluesy lead work. Steve Haller’s definitive piano, organ and electric keyboard work is a presence on every track, and the rhythm sections of drummers Chris Collier, Ralf Muelleger, or Kyle Culkin, bassist Bill Rufino, and Jeff Jensen on rhythm guitar provide a solid underpinning throughout. Kyle Culkin is featured on second rhythm guitar on “Loves Gonna Find You,” and Nate LaPointe plays slide electric guitar on “My Valentine” and pedal steel guitar with aplomb on “I Ain’t Gonna Give Up.” Tasty drum and bass solos are provided by drummer Chris Collier and bassist Bill Ruffino respectively, directly back-to-back, on “Queen Of The Damned.” Bluesman John Parker definitely went out with a bang, not a whimper, on his last CD, Self Titled, which makes this CD a strong listen for those who want nothing but straight-ahead contemporary blues with an original lyrical flair, and no frills added.

Reviewer George Fish lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, home of blues legends Yank Rachell and Leroy Carr, and writes a regular music column, “Blues and More” for the online Bloomington (IN) Alternative. He’s also published in the regional Indiana blues and alternative presses as well as Living Blues and Blues Access, and wrote the notes for Yank Rachell’s Delmark album, Chicago Style. He has also published on blues and pop music for the left-wing press as well, and has appeared in Against the Current and Socialism and Democracy, as well as the online Political Affairs and MRZine.


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