Parker Millsap, “Be Here Instead” (Okrahoma Records/Thirty Tigers)
Parker Millsap begins his new album ready to roll, playfully exploring the flexible verb on a song titled “Rolling.”
Equally elastic is Millsap’s musical approach throughout “Be Here Instead,” his first album in three years and a departure for the Oklahoma-born singer-songwriter. The choice of John Agnello (Kurt Vile, the Hold Steady, Waxahatchee) as producer hints at the new direction, with Millsap opting for arrangements that are denser, sleeker and hookier.
“Now, Here” is built on a percolating synthesizer. “Always” is geared for an uptown dance floor. And on “In Your Eyes,” that’s a violin, not a fiddle. The stylistic experimentation should win Millsap new fans, but old ones might be nonplussed.
Millsap employs clever lyrical structures as he sings about embracing the moment, whistling, whispering and otherwise connecting. Descending melodies are a recurring feature, which fits the mood during a pandemic.
The album was recorded mostly live with a full band, with Millsap’s commanding whiskey tenor front and center, including his impressive flights into falsetto. Talk about elastic.