Robert “Freightrain” Parker – Outside Ourselves

Buffalo based bassist, songwriter, and singer Robert “Freightrain” Parker has established himself and his band as one of the pre-eminent instrumental outfits working the music scene today, but this isn’t a band strictly focused on virtuoso chops. Many of the songs included on their latest album release Outside Ourselves traffic in deeply intimate and personal matters without ever risking obscurity. Instead, Parker’s written songs likely to resonate across the board for any adult listener and he delivers them without even a hint of pretentiousness.

Parker and his band opens the album on a brave note with the eight minute instrumental “Elijah” – it is a moody piece, but rich with interesting changes and melodic ideas they band presents to listeners, explores, and finally resolves in a more than satisfactory fashion. The rhythm section of Parker and drummer Damone A-Miracale Jackson obviously key much of the song’s success, but guitarist Grace Lougen is equally impressive. Kicking things off with a nearly ten minute long instrumental track, in the hands of a lesser band, would try the patience of many listeners, but Parker and his band mates keep you engaged from the first.

Better Man” is a sterling example of the aforementioned personal songwriting distinguishing Parker’s collection from so much of the cookie cutter fare flooding the modern musical landscape. Lougen, once again, shines brightly with her fluid lead guitar and Jackson’s focus on laying down a solid groove keeps the song between the lines, but Parker’s soulful vocal confronts his vulnerability fearlessly and with palpable gratitude. It’s another lengthy tune, running over seven minutes, but never exhausted my patience. The instrumental nuances threaded through these opening numbers obviously leaves the songs open to extended live improvisation, yet the recordings stand on their own as exemplary performances. Greg Leech’s organ playing is quite tasty as well.

The laid back feel characterizing the opening tracks continues with the title cut, but there’s a stronger backing vocal presence and Lougen punctuates the vocal with some piercing fills adding much color to the performance. It isn’t as personal as the preceding track, but its more expansive socially-minded message strikes an authentic note rather than seeming too earnest for its own good. It, also, features, some of Parker’s best bass playing on the release and Greg Leech once again acquits himself nicely with some spot on organ work.

Don’t Stop the Music” is a certain crowd pleaser in the making and features some boisterous horns flaring from the mix. It has a slightly uptempo and funky flash, never gratuitous, and the backing voices strengthen Parker’s already fine lead vocal.

Another slightly funky cut arrives with the track “I Still Believe”, but there’s a vivid strand of blue running through the song’s fabric. Parker continues to make excellent use of backing vocals that never dilute his own singing and Jackson’s drumming keeps the song hopping from the first without ever rushing it towards its conclusion.

Robert “Freightrain” Parker and his band deserve all of the accolades cast their way in recent years and will surely garner more based on the excellence clearly apparent on their latest studio album Outside Ourselves.

If you enjoyed a preview from Outside Ourselves, check out the official website for Robert “Freightrain” Parker by clicking here. Give him a like on Facebook by clicking here & a follow on Twitter by clicking here.

Eric Jarvis

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