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Decades later, Parker still has lots to say

TCAN The Center for the Arts of Natick, Natick, Mass., April 14, 2016

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Graham Parker may not be the angry young man any more - he's no longer so young at 65, and chances are that he's mellowed with time - but never sell Parker short. With ace guitarist Brinsley Schwarz, who backed him up 40 years ago as a member of The Rumour, in tow, Parker delved into career-ranging songs with his usual grit and style. And, oh yes, he also put his own stamp on them, reworking a number of them.

Parker commenced by going back in time with "Watch the Moon Come Down" and a revised "Silly Thing" before getting more recent with the uptempo charging "Stop Cryin' About the Rain," from the most welcome Graham Parker and The Rumour 2012 reunion disc "Three Chords Good."

The songs may not have had the musical firepower of a full band, but Schwarz provided lots of good guitar, never overplaying, sometimes staying in the background as needed. There was a definite comfort level, understandably, between the two mainstays.

Parker made it clear with his song selection that he was not content to reiterate the tried-and-true material from his catalogue and songs the near-capacity crowd would necessarily know after two notes. He, instead, trotted out songs like "Lunatic Fringe," You're Not Where You Think You Are" and "Flying into London" from last year's "Mystery Glue" disc with The Rumour. For some reason, he also played "When the Lights Go Down," a more commercial venture, from the 1984 soundtrack of the not all that well received "Hard to Hold" flick starring Rick Springfield. Odd because at least in his comments, Parker indicated he was not a big fan of the song.

If you were looking for chestnuts like "Hotel Chambermaid," "Local Girls," "Stupefaction" among others, well, maybe next time.

Parker ended strong with a reworked "The New York Shuffle" and the reggaeish "Don't Ask Me Questions" with the crowd helping out on the chorus.

Parker retained a bit an acerbic sense of humor, a bit self-deprecating, but he also knew that this was a crowd that had stood by him for years. The fewer younger folks in tow seemed to be there at the behest of their parents. They have taught their children well.

With a voice that has remained intact and a bevy of material to choose from, Parker has lots to say four decades later, angry or not.

Only two weeks after headlining a show in Cambridge, the excellent British husband-and-wife duo, My Darling Clementine, were back opening for Parker on the tour.

Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish are doing something that you just don't hear in country music these days - a male/female duo harmonizing and trading vocals. This is a bit of a throwback historically as aside from songs from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and the now defunct Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, no one was doing it regularly.

So perhaps looking back to an earlier era to the likes of Tammy and George (the fine MDC song "No Matter What Tammy Said (I Won't Stand By Him) underscores that!) and Dolly and Porter among others, My Darling Clementine is not simply recreating sounds of yesteryear, but bringing them forward. MDC paid tribute to Dan Penn with the nicely done "Our Race Is Run."

To their credit, they varied the set as well, inserting songs not on the list a few weeks back.

While MDC made you at times think about those who preceded them, they turned up more than a few notches on the emotional meter with "Ashes, Flowers and Dust" where both Dalgleish and King sang verses about the death of their parents and wanting them back. Maudlin, but touching.

The crowd may have been a bit tentative at first - twice clapping before the end of songs for MDC because concertgoers understandably didn't know the material - but by the end they were in the duo's corner. No surprise because My Darling Clementine has the songs, spunk, vocal abilities and sense of humor to deliver yet one more fine outing.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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