There are certain musicians that are crucial members of a music scene. Their work, not just the art they create, but the service they do, is what makes a scene vibrant. This is done via support, camaraderie, influence and leadership. I think I'll call them "backbone" musicians, for lack of a better term. Denis Parker is certainly one of them. The blues singer has weathered the changing scenes of the music industry for 50 years, and is the dean of the scene in St. John's, NL. He's put out his share of albums, and for almost 20 years was head of the Music Industry Association of NL. He's celebrating that 50 years with a new album, and a launch party Saturday, July 7.
Interestingly, his recording career actually began in England, where he's from. Parker was part of the British blues scene in the '60's, and eventually got his recording start in, wow, Abbey Road Studio. He even recorded his debut around the same time as The Beatles were recording their Abbey Road album. Parker was in a group called Panama Limited Jug Band, the chief songwriter, and that group's two albums on the hip Harvest label are hugely collectable this days. But he soon after cross the pond for Newfoundland, and has served as a player, educator and organizer since. So hats off to a remarkable career.
Meanwhile, the new album is just what Parker knows best, acoustic blues, just him, his guitar, a little accompaniment when called for, and something special, harmony vocals from his daughter Sarah Parker-Charles on a few cuts. It's a grab-bag of 19 tracks, recorded intimately, which is the perfect way to hear Parker. He owns this style, his vocals are mesmerizing, and the simplicity captivating. You can hear every bit of that 50 years' experience, on old favourites Trouble In Mind, Kokomo Blues, Canned Heat, or on his own material in that vein, some of them numbers he had composed and set aside years back, only to be rediscovered for this.
Like the best blues performers, Parker has improved with age. You can join the birthday bash Saturday at Fred's Music in St. John's with Parker doing a full set at 5 PM.