Album Review – Parker Millsap’s ‘The Very Last Day’

Parker Millsap The Very Last Day

The Americana scene has never been better. It has continued to get better and better in recent years with so many bright, up and coming artists emerging. There’s quality everywhere you look in the genre. One young artist you should undoubtedly familiarize yourself with is Parker Millsap. The 23-year-old singer-songwriter from Purcell, Oklahoma is one of the best examples you can find of an Americana artist, as his music is a blend of blues, country, rock and folk music. His band is made up of Michael Rose, who plays bass and a childhood friend of Millsap, and Daniel Foulks, who plays the fiddle. Millsap himself plays harmonica and slide guitar in addition to being the lead. He broke out two years ago with his sophomore self-titled album, as it netted him the merit as one of the Americana Music Association’s 2014 Emerging Artists of the Year and he received widespread attention from critics and fans for the song, “Truck Stop Gospel.” Millsap returns with his third album, The Very Last Day. And it’s a more than worthy follow-up to his self-titled sophomore album.

Some heavy acoustic guitar kicks off “Hades Pleads” and will instantly have you tapping your feet along with it. The fiddle play that appears throughout the song is excellent. It’s the perfect song to hook you into the album and make you want to hear more. “Pining” is an easy-going love song about a man willing to do whatever he has to do to keep his love in his life. He’ll work to the bone and exhaust himself if he has to in order to keep this woman. I love how well Millsap exudes the emotion of the song in his vocals too. This is followed by “Morning Blues,” a song about a man and his woman experiencing the blues and the man urging for them to lose them. The blues are coming from waking up and getting up in the morning. By the end of the song the man decides to just stay in bed with his woman and wait to get up in the afternoon instead. The instrumentation on this song is absolutely fantastic, evoking a very homey, down to earth feeling in the listener. And it couldn’t be anymore country if it tried.

The album takes a calm and quiet turn on “Heaven Sent” after the first three songs had a more upbeat rhythm. In what I consider the best track on the album, Millsap tackles a theme that you don’t see covered much in the country and Americana scenes; it’s about a gay man having a conversation with his pastor father about who he is and why he can’t accept him and love him now that he knows he’s gay. It’s not so much anger towards his father, but exasperation and frustration that he can’t accept him. The chorus says it’s best, as the lyrics are so powerful and well crafted:

“Papa I don’t need a preacher, I ain’t some kind of creature from some old double feature/I just wanna make you proud, but the kind of love I found well you say it ain’t allowed/Say that it’s a sin but it’s how I’ve always been/Did you love me when he was just my friend?”

I really applaud Millsap for releasing a song like this and going to a place not many in his position would have the guts to do. This is one of my favorite songs I’ve heard this year.

The album’s title track takes a straight forward approach to death. The message of the song is no matter how much you try to hide or shield yourself; everyone will meet his or her very last day. Millsap embraces this truth and opens his arms to the day it comes. The song has rockabilly tinge about it mixed with Millsap’s traditional country sound to make for a pretty catchy rhythm. Millsap takes a punk rock-like approach to “Hands Up.” Millsap emphatically sings about being in the shoes of a man who has resorted to robbing a store to feed his family. While he tells the man he feels bad about putting him in this situation, he tells him about his life. He tells the kid he’s not a bad man, as he served three tours in the Middle East and went to church every day growing up, but he’s fallen on hard times and has nowhere else to turn. So he feels justified in his actions. Upon first listen of this short and fast-paced song you’ll be surprised at how much depth this Robin Hood-like story contains.

“Jealous Sun” is another quiet song that really shows off Millsap’s great voice. The song itself is simple; it’s about how every day a man has to watch his woman leave when the sun comes up to what I’m guessing is to go to work. While the jealous sun may take her during the day, he sees a side of her at night the sun will never see and that’s her dreams and beauty as she sleeps. Up next is “Wherever You Are.” Millsap shows great passion in his voice as he sings about looking for his love and pleading for her to show herself. The chorus of this song is especially catchy, as the instrumentation and Millsap’s vocals go together well. The dusty and rustic-toned “You Gotta Move” is an almost soulful tune about needing to move when love presents itself. You have to seize the opportunity before it passes you by. The instrumentation, which I feel like I’ve praised a lot already, is brilliant on this song, especially when the fiddles kick in on the bridges. Yet despite my over-praising, I feel like I’m still not giving it enough credit. It’s just so damn good.

“A Little Fire” is a solemn, reflective song about a man who feels trapped in his house and wants to escape by burning it to the ground. While on the surface this comes off as delusional and dark, it really serves as a metaphor that the man is bored in life and just wants to bring some excitement in it. This is highlighted further when he sings about wanting to leave town and the burn rubber as they leave it. The Very Last Day concludes with “Tribulation Hymn.” Millsap once again explores death, this time through the shoes of someone who was left behind when the rapture came and left. God took his sister, but he left him behind, leaving him to kneel in the altars of a vacant church and realize the errors of his ways. It’s a very dark, yet poignant song with a clear message.

Parker Millsap proves once again he’s one of the best artists in Americana today. The Very Last Day seamlessly blends genres and tells intriguing stories with ease. Well upon the surface it seems so easy. If you listen to this album casually, you will miss out on some nice subtleties and details that really help make this album shine. It’s the little things on this album that help make the big parts standout so well. The Very Last Day gives you a little bit of everything, as it explores love, death and everything in-between. After listening to this album it reminded me of why I love Americana. And after you give a listen for yourself, you will probably come to the same conclusion. You will realize Parker Millsap is pretty damn great too.

Grade: 9/10

The Hodgepodge: Our Most Anticipated Albums

This is a busy week for me and there doesn’t seem to be a lot to discuss right now in country and Americana. Blake Shelton, Jake Owen, and Luke Bryan have all announced rather lack luster singles steeped in clichés and boring lyrics. And some of mainstream’s recent album releases have been just as shallow and boring. So given my time restraints, I’m just going to push out a quick and dirty list of some of our most anticipated albums expected to release this year.

I would like to write another historical snapshot soon for another country music legend. If there is someone you’d like for me cover sooner rather than later, please feel free to include in your comment, and I’ll take your vote into consideration!

  • Southern Family – Due out next week, the album is a concept album about family life in the south. Cobb’s main inspiration for the album is White Mansions, a multi-artist album from the late 70s that featured Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Steve Cash, and John Dillon. Why are we excited for this album? Just look at the line up: Brandy Clark, Zac Brown, Jamey Johnson, Miranda Lambert, Anderson East, Chris & Morganne Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and many more. Some of the early song previews have been great, including Zac Brown’s “Grandma’s Garden” and Miranda Lambert’s “Sweet By and By.”
  • Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter Margo Price has a great traditional sound and a commanding voice for country music. Price was the lead singer from Buffalo Clover for a number of years and now is poised to release her first solo project. The few preview tracks for the album have sounded promising, and an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has drawn interest to her album.
  • Parker Millsap’s The Very Last Day – This will be Millsap’s second album, and the Oklahoma roots rocker looks to continue making a big impression with The Very Last Day. Parker Millsap was nominated for Americana Emerging Artist of the Year in 2014 after the release of his self-titled debut album.
  • Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth I won’t go into too much about why we’re excited for this album. Josh covered the announcement last week. However, I’ll give my opinion saying that I’m looking forward to hear Sturgill’s new music. Between “Sugar Daddy” for Vinyl and his new single “Brace For Impact (Live a Little)” I think he sounds great with more heavy rock added to his music. Including a cover of one of my favorite Nirvana songs, I must say that I’m excited for April 15 to get here!

Others potentially great albums to look forward to that have been announced are Brandy Clark’s Big Day In A Small Town, Hayes Carll’s Lovers & Leavers and Jon Pardi’s California Sunrise. And of course there will be many more announced in the coming months. Maybe Jamey Johnson will finally release a new album!

Upcoming/Recent Country Releases

  • Chris King’s Animal will be released tomorrow.
  • Luke Bryan has announced his next single will be “Huntin’, Fishin’, and Lovin’ Every Day.”
  • Blake Shelton announced his new single “Came Here to Forget.” Shelton also announced the release date for his new album. If I’m Honest will be released on May 20.
  • Americana songwriter Michaela Anne will release her new album, Bright Lights and the Fame on May 13. Her new single, “Won’t Go Down” is available now.
  • Kenny Chesney has teased that he’s been working on a new album. No official details have been provided yet.

Throwback Thursday Song

Loretta Lynn “The Pill”. This 1975 song from Loretta Lynn stirred a lot of controversy upon its release. Blantantly dealing with the subject of birth control, this song challenged all the established and preconceived values of country music and gender stereotypes. Loretta Lynn, now 83, added one more album to her extensive collection with Full Circle.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Nirvana Nevermind. 1991’s Nevermind is a masterful album. With songs like “In Bloom”, “Come As You Are” and the excellent “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, this album embodies grunge rock. If you have never sat down to listen to the whole album, I highly suggest you do so. Kurt Cobain was a musical genius lost too soon.

Tweet of the Week

While I do appreciate ambiguity in lyrics and allowing a listener to craft their own interpretation to the song, I must say I agree. Songs are meant to be listened to, not watched.

A Spot On iTunes Review

Granger Smith Review

Granger Smith’s new album Remington is terrible. It’s so bland that we’re not reviewing it now. But if we did review it, this review above covers what we would say in a nutshell.