As yet more proof that later generations' hybridizations are turning out wondrous new wrinkles on established genre modes, Sunparlour Players have released their fourth CD, The Living Proof, and it's an extremely satisfying blend of folk, rock, cleverly slipstreamed atonalities, ballad, roots, and, well, one or two styles I can't even place. The group itself is a duo, Andrew Penner and Michael Rosenthal, with minimal sessioneering, and the band has been increasingly well received, so much so that it's now in the middle of an extensive Canadian tour. How the hell they're going to pull off this elegant, and at times abrupt (Soapbox might well jar your back molars), music in and of themselves is beyond me, so I'm guessing they'll be accompanied, ensconced in a band.
In places, I'm vaguely reminded of Gravytrain, a cool old 70s band now forgotten but which experimented with folk, rock, prog, and psychedelia, as well as Gungor, a modern husband and wife duet ensemble producing musics with just as much grandeur, happiness, positivity, and unexpected side avenues, but Sunparlour Players cleaves closer to the bottom-most style. This means that a good deal of Proof would be highly appealing to Harry Nilsson, latterday Nashville hipsters, and, of course, the gaggle of incredibly talented roots musicians in the huge Upper North 40 part of NorthAm: Canadaland.
Andrew Penner, multi-instrumentalist, singer, and the cat who handles the largest part of writing, possesses a fetchingly sincere aching voice reaching to a saner future than the present is ready to portend, and the songs oft build into the light cast by those ideations, even when serially truncated, as in the clever repeating chorus of By Your Side. Mike Rosenthal, percussionist and backing vox (and some bass work along with Penner), doesn't just man the traps and glockenspiel and bells but glows in the mix, his presence as additive as the skins and doodads. Then, of course, there's Hugh Oliver actually reading the recipe instructions for How to Make Ginger Bourbon Apple Butter as though excised from a Wooster & Jeeves episode. You don't find that sort of thing just anywhere, y'know.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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