There are few sounds more soothing than the upbeat, hopeful tunes and 3-part harmonies of The Parson Red Heads. Last I saw them, they were in the middle of a grueling tour to support their wonderful album Yearling, the band (and Evan in particular) valiantly fighting a nasty cold that was in full bloom for their Great Scott appearance. On their new EP, the 6-track Murmurations (out March 20 on Timber Carnival Records), there’s some somber thoughts and a wistful quality that adds considerable depth to a band I’ve already greatly admired.
From the very beginning of the Byrds-flavored “Another Chance,” there’s sorrow as well as sweetness, the complexity and challenge of human relationships tempered by a soothing musical balm (“Can we try again next year / to see if what was torn by us can be repaired? / Can we take another chance / to see if what was lost was worth the getting back?”). Sam takes the lead on “Long Way Back,” which has a faster pace and hopeful exuberance, despite personal struggle (“It’s a long way back to a place I can call my own”). “Jenny” is a heart-breaker, beginning sparsely with quiet acoustic strumming, harmonica, and their heart-tugging harmonies (“Jenny, she’s a lost soul, been lost for so long, her home is a place to lay her head / Jenny, why don’t you come home, the kids they miss you. Jenny, I miss you too”). “Hold On” and the closer, “Here It Comes Again” are both musical affirmations in the face of doubt and lost hope (“Every night I realize that I am drifting further out to sea / Before the sun begins to rise, I dream of what the future holds for me / the mountain asks me if I thought I ever really felt that I was free.” – Here It Comes Again). We’re left for a while with these unsettling thoughts, but in the extended jam that closes out Murmurations, you can see and feel the sun rising in a blue sky to erase any lingering feelings that the game is not worth the candle.
And that is the gift from this fine band, that comes through strongly in their music and uplifted/uplifting voices. It’s a matter of faith; that confirmation that everything is going to be ok.
Wed 3/14 Joe’s Place (2:30pm) and The Grackle (4:30pm)
Thurs 3/15 Paramont Theatre (7pm) – Big Star Showcase
Fri 3/16 Ginger Man Pub (1pm); Soular Garden/Fiesta Red (6pm); Maggie May’s Rooftop (9pm)
Sat 3/17 Maison D’Etoile (6:30pm) check their facebook page for sxsw addresses
Mon 3/19 Launchpad, Albuquerque, NM (w/Blitzen Trapper)
Tues 3/20 Sheridan Opera House, Telluride, CO (w/Blitzen Trapper)
Thurs 3/22 The State Room, Salt Lake City, UT (w/Blitzen Trapper)
Fri 3/23 Neurolux @ Treefort Music Fest, Boise, ID (w/Blitzen Trapper)
Sat 3/24 Cebu Lounge, Hood River, OR
Thurs 4/26 Sunset Tavern, Seattle, WA (w/Dolorean)
Sat 4/28 Mississippi Studios, Portland, OR (w/Dolorean)
Murmurations is available from Timber Carnival Records as a digital download, physical CD (in a limited edition of 500), and as a special package, along with the 12″ vinyl of Yearling (which also includes digital downloads of both).