A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Cynthia A. Harney
Bill Parsons' debut album, Unskilled Labor, is as varied as his musical background. At the age of eight he began singing in barber shop quartets and madrigal groups. High school found him in a folk/rock cover band, and in college an a capella group. With the help of co-producer Mike Harvey and an outstanding group of "Contract Workers," Parsons crafted an album that unfolds from folk to rock to what Parsons calls acoustic grunge.
Parsons' choice of songs (7 originals plus Unskilled Labor by Terry McDonald and She's the Man by Lu Bango) relate tales of first encounters and finding one's place in the world. Although some of his phrasings aren't readily understood, Parsons writes with an honesty and understanding of some basic human frailties ("I take it without thinking, sometimes it's without thanks").
Silent One reveals a young man's thoughts during a great first date, a "What would you do if I said" narration in which he comments, "Thank God women can't read minds." Wonder if he should be told some of us do? UFO Song describes another first encounter, this time with the occupant of a funky spaceship with a Barbarella 'do. Said to be a true story, this woman not only took him (Parsons?) around the world, but into the future as well. This one's a bit rock n' roll, a bit Elvis-y. Love that walking bass.
We're first introduced to Julie Sanderson on She's the Man where she adds a warm, gentle touch of harmony to Parsons' articulate, smooth as silk timbre. Of note too is Rick Schmidt's powerful violin solo gliding effortlessly around James Key's mandolin. On I Chose You, Parsons and Sanderson are accompanied only by guitar. It's an exquisite combination for this soulful look at the realities of a long term relationship.
|Do You Really Know Who I Am? |
Unskilled Labor (Terry McDonald)
She's the Man (Lu Banjo)
I Choose You
Right Where I Want to Be
Ode to Slip 'N' Slide (Morning Edition Mix)
|Bill Parsons Vocals, Acoustic Guitar |
Eli Attie Electric & Classical Guitars
Tony Kreindler Classical Guitar
Julie Sanderson Backing Vocals
Johnny "Ace" Combs Electric and Upright Bass
Robert Shaw Fretless Bass
Evan Pollack Drums, Bongos, Percussion
Christopher Reitz Congas
Rick Schmidt Violin, Cello
James Key Mandolin
Unskilled Labor is available on CD and cassette from Kind Grind Music, P.O. Box 210344, Washington, D.C. 20009 or Toll-free 1-800-377-8508.
Edited by Allen Price