The name Joyann Parker was a new one to me when her newest CD, Hard To Love (Hopeless Romantics Records) arrived in my mailbox. The quality of music on this disc sent me scurrying to Ms. Parker'swebsite to find out where she's from (the Twin Cities) and whether she's recorded before (yes, she has a previous CD called On The Rocks). She's a powerful sassy, soulful singer who also plays guitar, piano and trumpet, and wrote all 13 of the songs on Hard To Love.
The album starts out with a mid-tempo soulful blues, "Memphis," featuring strong slide guitar from Mark Lamoine. Ms. Parker really shines on the next cut, "Envy," where her tortured vocals cry out about her man seeing another woman. Her voice just plain soars through the octaves throughout this one. and it's easy to feel the pain that she's trying to convey.
Even better is the gospel-ish soul number "Home," with Ms. Parker's voice getting stronger as the song progresses, and we also hear a fine guitar solo from Lamoine. One of the best examples of Ms. Parker's creative songwriting is the sassy blues "Who What When Where Why," on which she asks her man every possible question about his whereabouts and his companions.
She offers another rebuke of her cheating man on "Bluer Than You," on which she shouts out " ... you can hardly wait to make them bluer than you! ... " "Ray" features strong piano work, presumably from bandmember Tim Wick, with a heavy New Orleans second line rhythm.
Ms. Parker flips the situation around on "Evil Hearted," a slow, sultry blues with subtle jazzy guitar from Lamoine. Now it's the woman's turn to break someone's heart.
Hard To Love closes with the title cut, a late-night soulful number with very good tortured vocals from Ms. Parker. She continually reminds us that her man is just so hard to love.
If, like me, you weren't before familiar with Joyann Parker, be sure to search aggressively for Hard To Love. It's a keeper!
--- Bill Mitchell