Levi Parham: These American Blues
TULSA, Okla.- Levi Parham’s new album These American Blues is set to be released on June 24. The album was produced by Jimmy Lafave, and the executive producer was Kelcy Warren. It was engineered and mixed by John Ross Silva, at Cedar Creek Recording in Austin. It was mastered by Eric Conn, Independent Mastering. The art direction was by Bryan Peterson and the photography by Pete Lacker. All songs were written by Levi Parham with the exception of “Chemical Train” which was written by Wink Burcham. Musicians on the album not only include Parham on guitar and vocal, but also Michael Byars on drums and percussion, Tim Easton on guitar, Phil Hurley on guitar, Seth Lee Jones on guitar, David Leach on bass, Radoslov Lorkovic on piano and B3 organ, and Jaimee Harris, Noelle Hampton and Emily Shirley on background vocals.
This is Parham’s first full length studio album, and follows his self released album An Okie Opera (2103) and his self released EP Avalon Drive (2014). Parham signed with Music Road Records in December 2015.
Parham will be having album release shows at The Blue Door, located at 2805 N McKinley Ave in Oklahoma City on Thursday June 23 and at Fassler Hall, located at 304 S Elgin Ave in Tulsa, on Friday June 24.
The album opens with the title track “These American Blues”, which opens up the album quite nicely with a catchy beat that is toe tapping for sure. Strong instrumentals compliment Parham’s strong voice in the tune. There’s some great guitar solo work, and the lyrics paint a poignant picture about dealing with the American blues.
“Ain’t the Man to Tell You So” starts off soft and slow which is in contrast to the vocals in the tune which have that bit of gruff and grit around the edges. This song shows some of the diversity Parham can reach vocally and delivers a bit of bittersweet truth with the line “love is the most god awful pain I know”. It’s filled with a little bit of hope and a little bit of heartbreak, wrapped up in a lovely tune.
“Steal Me” follows next. This song picks the pace back up. It’s upbeat and filled with a variety of great instrumentals giving it different layers and depth. It’s got that churchy blues vibe in the sound especially with the backing vocals, beautiful and light like a church choir. It’s a love song of sorts although not too heavy on sappy qualities but more grounded in real life, just raw and true.
“Wrong Way to Hold a Man” is a bit of a dark tune about the ways a woman can drive a man crazy and not in a good way. It’s full of soul and delivers on blues as well. It’s got somewhat of a haunting quality to it musically, the keys adding an almost eerie quality in ways. Parham’s gritty voice plays up in just the right ways for this song.
“Gonna Be a Long Day” brings it back into an upswing. The lyrics just lay it all out there about having a hard time and a long day, keeping it real. It’s got a steady beat and a great tune. Parham’s voice is softer and loses some of that roughness in this tune, which plays well.
“I’m Behind Ya” comes next. This song has got some sass and spunk all the way around; vocally, lyrically and instrumentally. It’s gritty and bluesy and full of soul, with the keys giving it a bit of jazzy fun as well. It’s an uplifting tune with a message about having your lover’s back.
“Held in High Regard” opens with an almost rock and roll sound, although steady and easy going as well. It’s got those lovely backing vocals again giving it that churchy blues vibe also. The keys also stand out in a fantastic way. “Folks getting high on the Tulsa heat”, pays homage to Parham’s Oklahoma roots. His voice is strong and smooth, and shows his ability to change the quality of his voice depending on the type of song he is singing.
“Waiting Game” leans more towards the red dirt/americana sound than the signature blues and soul of the rest of the album, but it’s a nice break and is done well. It’s a sweet song, a love song done in a simple manner, not too flashy or overdone. It paints a vivid picture of the different layers that make up the woman in the song and the stages of building something up with her.
“Don’t Care None” starts out with a whimsical kind of vibe. It’s playful and fun and makes you want to tap your toes and bob along to the beat. It definitely makes you want to move, you can feel the music in your bones. It’s an upbeat song that is accented well with the keys, it’s part jazzy and blues.
“Chemical Train” is slow and methodical. It delivers a rhythm and blues feel mixed with a bit of rock and a bit of funk. It’s a little dark and full of spice instrumentally. The backing vocals add that hauntingly beautiful quality. It paints a clear picture of taking a long and hard ride on the chemical train, which takes you far from home. You can feel the sorrow in the choices made both in the words and Parham’s voice, he brings it alive.
“Your Blue Eyes Give You Away” diverts away from the rest of the album and has a softer country feel to it, but still definitely laced with some soul. Parham’s voice is much more subtle on this tune, less gruff and more softened around the edges. It’s a sweet love song, The keys are beautiful throughout the entire tune.
“Central Time” is a fun song. It’s got a great beat and a jazzy feel, wrapped up with some Oklahoma lyrics about coming home after traveling around. It has some fine guitar solo work going on along with those great jazzy keys that are prominent in most of the album. It’s a moving and a shaking song.
“Love Comes Around” ends the album on a sweet and slow note. It takes you on a leisurely pace like you have all the time in the world, no need to hurry along. The guitar in it is lovely. The vocals are softer and less pronounced but manage to still have that gritty edge to them, giving it a great contrast. It’s a song tinged with pain and heartache, bittersweet melancholy all wrapped up in a lovely melody. It’s a great way to end the album and ties it all up quite nicely.
Overall the album is a fantastic array of blues and soul, with just enough diversity in types of songs to keep it interesting but stay consistent. Parham is a talented songwriter delivering thoughtful lyrics that also paint pictures of raw and real life subjects with a hint of poetic and nostalgic elements intertwined. Parham’s voice is unique and interesting, in that one moment it can seem sandpaper rough around the edges and other times tender and clear. He has a talented vocal range and uses it wisely and diversely in his songs. This is an album that keeps you hooked from start to finish, and with 13 songs that’s a feat in itself. You’ll definitely want to get your hands on this album as soon as possible and give it a spin for yourself.