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Parker soldiers on with new and old

City Winery, Boston, May 1, 2023

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

At 72, the acerbic wit of Graham Parker remains firmly intact. More importantly, so are his musical skills in a concert ranging from chestnuts to new songs soon to see the light of day later this year.

Parker received well-deserved praise for his first two releases only six months apart in 1976, "Howlin' Wind" and "Heat Treatment" and has released almost two dozen more albums since.

While at this stage of his career, Parker may no longer be The Next Big Thing, it seemed fitting that he kicked off the 85-minute show with "Fool's Gold," making it clear the crowd of about 125 people that he was still in the musical hunt – on his terms anyway.

And that was clear by not simply trotting old the tried-and-true, same old versions. Parker breathed new air into "Fool's Good" and a slowed-down "Silly Thing," his first two songs. It would have been easy for Parker to give the fans the versions they know (well perhaps not exactly as Parker was appearing solo, playing both acoustic and toned down electric guitars. So, there was no Rumour or other band members to help out), but that's not what Parker had in mind.

A few particular standouts were from "The Mona Lisa's Sister" with "Get Started, Start a Fire" and "Under the Mask of Happiness."

Parker also delved into two songs from an album slated for September release (the attitude came through from Parker in talking about the album, complaining about the long gap until release day from now. Parker never was one to exude happiness.). As if to accentuate the angry Graham, "I Did Nothing" fit the bill. It's a song of utter regret ranging on themes ranging from losing someone to Afghanistan to COVID.

And in looking back, while at heaven's gate, he offered "The Last Stretch of the Road," adding a bit of harp at the end, while acknowledging "there's no turning back."

Parker also played "Let It Rain" and "Stayed Here Loving You" from "The Middlesex Demos," which came out last August, 50 years after the songs were recorded as he was trying to jump start his career. He also went on a few lengthy stories about those sessions, including returning to his parent's home in England after hanging out in Morocco. "You keep going until you get something right," Parker said.

As Parker said, "Let It Rain" was more akin to his "Howllin' Wind" material. Like the rest of the night, Parker made it sound 2023 fresh.

Nearly book ending "Fools' Gold," Parker turned in a cover of "That's Life," one of Frank Sinatra's signature songs, near the end of the show. Name checking Frankie, Parker gave it a bit of a bluesy, acoustic bent. Like "Fool's Gold," it's about resiliency and "getting back in the race."

Not that Parker has gone away (except due to COVID, of course) – at least for his fans. But it was most welcome to see Parker soldiering on with songs old and new.

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