Hard to Love
| April 12th, 2018
Artist: Joyann Parker
Album: Hard to Love
Label: Hopeless Romantics
Release Date: 4.13.2018
There’s some serious singing and musicianship afoot here. Minneapolis-based Joyann Parker is a classically trained pianist with a degree in music from the University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse. She sang in church and in wedding bands before she was struck with the blues-soul muse. It happened serendipitously as she was invited to join a blues band after singing Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” at a contest. She claims to have known nothing about the blues until about four years ago, but knew instantly that it was what she was meant to do. She moved quickly. In 2015 she and her band and album of the same name, Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea, won the Minnesota Blues Society’s band competition and went on to compete in the IBC. That inspired her to write the songs for this CD on which she sings, plays piano, guitar, and trumpet. She wrote or co-wrote all songs, some with co-producer and guitarist Mark Lamoine.
Parker fell in love with the Stax Museum in Memphis, inspiring the album’s first track, “Memphis” (reminiscent somewhat of Shemekia Copeland’s “Never Going Back to Memphis” musically, but very different thematically). “Envy,” a mid-tempo soul tune, also carries a Memphis vibe. “Home,” along with “Jigsaw Heart” and “Evil Hearted” are three simmering B3 driven ballads that are among the best tracks. Parker’s strength is clearly in the ballads, but she does her best to mix it up. “Ray” has a New Orleans feel while “Who, What, When, Where, Why” is an up-tempo danceable R&B. “Dizzy” takes the dancing more in the Motown direction.
Parker seems to base “Take My Heart and Run” on Muddy’s riffs from “Can’t Be Satisfied” and conjures up Chuck Berry for “What Happened to Me.” The piano-accompanied closer and title track sounds like a Broadway tune, as if it came from the great American songbook. One gets the sense that this is the kind of material Parker did before taking on blues and soul. She’s got the pipes and comes across honestly and passionately. Perhaps she could be faulted for too much style exploration though. Nonetheless, she is on firmly planted ground singing the smoldering, slow-burning Stax-like ballads.