Elton John thinks you should see Parker Millsap’s solo show at Victory North on Sept. 11.
No, Sir Elton did not say that in so many words, but he was mightily impressed with Millsap after a 2016 double bill with Sarah Jarosz in Atlanta.
“Last night in Atlanta I saw one of the best concerts I have ever seen,” John said on Facebook the day after the show.
“It restored my faith in music.”
“That was surreal to say the least,” Millsap said in an email interview last week. “Elton is a hero. He works so hard and has done so for a long time! He is humble and engaged in conversation and he is constantly seeking out new music and supporting new artists.”
Three years later, Millsap no longer qualifies as “new” even though he is only 26. His growing resume includes four wonderful full-length albums and a growing list of impressive gigs. The music reflects influences from blues, bluegrass, country and other roots genres.
I was lucky to see Millsap at Forecastle Festival in 2015, so I became a fan even before Elton John did. Under a hot Kentucky sun on the banks of the Ohio River, I was floored by Millsap’s powerful vocals and evocative lyrics.
Millsap was playing with a three-piece band (guitar, upright bass and fiddle) for that gig and for an amazing set at Revival Fest in Savannah in 2016, and then he returned for a stirring show at the Savannah Music Festival fronting a four-piece.
“I love playing with a full rhythm section,” Millsap said. “The drums and bass can really lock in and make things groove in a way that we couldn’t do without a drummer.”
“A great drummer can play softly or have the wherewithal to not play in certain places, and then really dig in when it’s necessary so the show has more dynamic range,” Millsap said. “I think it makes for a show with higher highs and lower lows.”
As good as Millsap is with a band, I confess to being even more excited to hear him solo — nothing but Millsap’s guitar, incredible vocal range and finely crafted songs.
Millsap started doing some solo shows earlier this year, and the Victory North gig kicks off a 10-day run through the southeast and Midwest.
“It’s a challenge to rearrange some of the full band songs to just me and an acoustic, but I’ve enjoyed re-working them,” Millsap said.
You can get a sense of Millsap’s powerful pipes and daring in the recently released cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s soul classic “Everyday People” for Amazon Music. That might seem a sharp departure from song’s like “Truck Stop Gospel” that put Millsap on the map.
“I like that the lyrics take a sort of bird's eye view of tense situations but don't necessarily cast judgment on either party,” Millsap said in an interview with Paste Magazine. “Also, the 'so on and so on a shooby doobie doobie' lyrics make me think of Kurt Vonnegut's phrase 'so it goes.'”
“Genre is disappearing I think,” he said via our interview. “The internet makes all styles and eras of music available to everyone all the time so the cross-pollination continues to ramp up and blur distinctions.”
“I’ve always been more interested in the ways that all genres overlap... verse, chorus, bridge structure... lyrical elements... call and response... melodic and harmonic themes... chord structure... rhythmic components...,” Millsap continued, “when you start to analyze things that way Baroque and Bluegrass and Black Metal start to have a lot in common.”
Parker Millsap performs at 8 p.m., Sept. 11 at Victory North, 2603 Whitaker St. Doors open at 7 p.m. General admission tickets ($16) and four-top tables ($19 per person) are available via the venue's website at victorynorthconcerts.com.
Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged (www.billdawers.com) and hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email email@example.com.