Sarah Parker – Strawberry Moon

Sarah Parker’s Southern heritage shines through on each of Strawberry Moon’s fourteen songs and numerous years residing north of the Mason-Dixon line has done nothing to dim its abiding fire. These are songs thoroughly steeped in blues and traditional country, but there’s a generous rush of singer/songwriter sensibilities washing over the songs and it gives Parker’s material a familiar, yet unique feel.

Her individual spirit fuels the artistic tone of Strawberry Moon and the lyrics are littered with signature turns of phrase stamped with the outlines of personal experience. Parker, likewise, brings a poetic veneer to the material without ever sounding half baked or forced; it elevates already excellent songwriting to a higher level.

She makes an understated statement of purpose with the album opener “Sugar Town”. Many of her strengths readily present themselves, namely her talented for concocting credible characters and narratives in her songwriting, but even that marquee skill depends on her striking the right musical note. It is definitely cut from an Americana cloth, but I hear how she manages to imbue it with her own character rather simply aping more distinctive predecessors.

Parker never goes in for ham fisted country balladry anywhere on Strawberry Moon, but she does explore a much more pronounced commercial side of her musical character with the songs “You Can’t Tell a Heart” and “Even When You’re Lonely”. The former song has a strong sense of inevitably for devotees of this style, but I appreciate Parker’s efforts because she gets there with such seamlessness and skill.

The second track contains some especially tasty organ playing and has a steady pace pushing it towards its end. “Even When You’re Lonely”, however, packs the same level of sly, bittersweet wit heard in the previous number and seems tailored made for country radio.

The glistening touch distinguishing the album’s title song comes from the weaving of acoustic guitar with mandolin, but “Strawberry Moon” has deceptive simplicity. It takes a deft songwriting sense and near telepathic chemistry with supporting musicians to find the balance you hear during this performance and Parker’s immensely human and emotive singing brings fine lyrical content to even more vivid life.

One of the album’s more interesting lyrics comes with the song “Road to Your Discovery” as it has a philosophical slant uncommon in the album’s other songs without ever seeming obscure. It has a breezy tempo, but Parker and her collaborators never rush it and the guitar gives it a snappy melodic twist.

Keep on Movin’ (The Train Song)” has a stronger blues influence than many of the other tracks and has a plethora of colorful language that stands out on the release. Another reason for its success is simple touches like the train whistle opening the track. It may not seem like much, but an accumulation of such choices really helps the collection stand out from the pack.

Lonely Highway” is the album’s longest song and Parker’s talents prove expansive enough to accommodate a larger canvas. It’s another song laden with familiar tropes and language given a personal twist from Sarah Parker’s and the nuanced, well paced playing from the accompanying musicians provides one of Strawberry Moon’s highlights. Some might be dubious of including fourteen songs on a release, but there is a real moment of filler found in the running order and Parker’s confidence carries the album into even richer realms.

If you enjoyed a sneak peak at Sarah Parker’s Strawberry Moon, check out her official website by clicking here. Give her a like on Facebook by clicking here.

Eric Jarvis

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