If you want music with a whole lot of soul and passion, music that can move your heart one moment, then move your feet the next, check out the new release from Joyann Parker, Hard To Love. The album features all original material, written by Joyann Parker and Mark Lamoine. The songwriting is strong, with lots of good, memorable lines, like “You go to sleep in the driver’s seat, but you wake up in the trunk” in “Bluer Than You.” Joyann, in addition to lead vocals, plays guitar, piano and trumpet on this release. Joining her are Mark Lamoine on guitar and backing vocals, Tim Wick on piano and organ, Michael Carvale on bass, and Alec Tackmann on drums and percussion.
The album has a strong start with “Memphis,” a good mean bluesy gem about moving on, and saying good riddance to someone and not looking back. “No regrets, no time to spare/Now I’m moving on/By the time I get to Memphis/You’ll be gone.” She sure isn’t shy, or pulling her punches, using phrases like “poison oozing out your mouth,” and belting out the lines, getting the anger out of her system through music and through movement. “Gotta keep on rolling, keep on rolling, gotta keep on rolling on down.” Yes, we all need to keep on rolling. That’s followed by “Envy,” which has a familiar, classic R&B sound and rhythm, with good work on keys. In this one, she misses her previous lover, wondering if he is doing the same things with his new girl that he did with her. “Do you touch her like you touched me/Do you hold her body close to yours as you sleep.” What’s interesting is at the end, she is also wondering about the other woman’s reactions to his love. “Do you move her like you move me/Do her eyes light up with fire when you meet/And does her heart pound in her chest when she hears you speak/And does her soul burn when she hears you sing.” Ah, she still has it bad for this guy, and she seems to think that maybe he still feels something for her.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again here: I need to make a mix CD of songs titled “Home.” I’ve never heard a bad song with that title. And Joyann Parker’s “Home” is no exception. In fact, it’s one of my personal favorite tracks on this CD. It’s a beautiful, moving, uplifting R&B number. “We’re only here, we’re only here for such a short time/But the journey, the journey can feel so long/When life ain’t all that you hoped for/And your whole world, your whole world is upside down.” She concedes that there are troubles, but the song is full of hope. And isn’t that what we need? She delivers an excellent, lively, passionate vocal performance. And I dig that lead guitar part halfway through. This song just gets better and better, building to a powerful ending. (If you’re curious about other songs titled “Home,” check out songs with that title by Ellis Paul, Erica Blinn, Michelle Malone, The Evangenitals, The Spongetones, The Ides Of March, Joe Walsh, Iggy Pop, James Houlahan, Janiva Magness and Anton Fig.)
“Dizzy” is a fun, rockin’ number to get you on your feet. Then Gunhild Carling joins Joyann Parker on horn for “Who What When Where Why,” a groovy and energetic tune about a woman with questions. “Who am I to you/What did you think you were going to do/And when will you ever be free/Where is the life you promised I’d see/And why oh why oh why do I cry/For a guy that keeps leaving me high and dry?” The horn is excellent. I’m also totally enjoying the work on keys. “I keep holding onto you while you’re letting go of me.” And, holy moly, listen to Joyann really giving it all vocally at the end. Yes, this is certainly one of the album’s most enjoyable tracks.
And then we get a song with a great New Orleans flavor, “Ray.” This sound always make me feel good, makes me want to join a second line and dance through the whole city. And this song features more delicious work on keys. “I’m trying to make this work/But you’re really such a jerk/Aren’t you, Ray?” “Take My Heart And Run” is another fun one with a wonderful rhythm, and a raw, immediate, loose sound. And it’s followed by “Your Mama,” a playful tune where the other woman in her man’s life is the guy’s mother. “Tell your mama, your mama she’s got to go/I can’t take her messing with my head no more/Well, you’re my baby, not hers no more.” This tune has a delicious, jazzy vibe. The album concludes with its title track, “Hard To Love,” a slower, pretty number that really focuses on Joyann’s vocals. “They say the best things are free/When it comes to him and me/I paid with my heart early on/The price was high, you see/Because he’s so hard to love.”