LIVE: Parker Millsap @ the Ale House, 7/14/15
Review by Greg Haymes
The Ale House in Troy is a quintessential, funky neighborhood corner bar (renowned for its chicken wings), but in recent years owner Brian Gilchrist has also transformed the back room into one of Nippertown’s most welcoming homes for Americana music. So on a mid-summer Tuesday night while the regulars were watching the MLB All-Star Game in the bar, music fans were witnessing a star-in-the-making in the back.
Parker Millsap is hardly a household name, even to Americana music fans, but that should be changing soon. With two indie albums under his belt, the 21-year-old Oklahoma singer-songwriter exhibited limitless potential in front of the jam-packed crowd at the Ale House.
Millsap is blessed with movie-star good looks (think River Phoenix mixed with a bit of Leo DiCaprio), a nonchalant charisma and a magnificently elastic voice that effortlessly shifted gears from a raucous blues howl to a keening other-worldly falsetto whisper in a single note. And to top it all off, he’s got a surprisingly rich and deep songbag that melds together country, blues, rockabilly and gospel into a devastating brand of music that harkens back to the earliest days of rock ‘n’ roll, while sounding thoroughly contemporary.
Backed by stand-up bassist Michael Rose and fiddler Daniel Foulks, Millsap and his acoustic guitar offered a few telling covers, including “Hesitation Blues” and a knock-out medley of Robert Johnson’s “Hot Tamales (They’re Red Hot)” and the Depression-era chestnut “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” But his own songs were the focus throughout the 90-minute show, and he sang about religion, homelessness and gay rights. The rousing “Truck Stop Gospel” – “a story from the point of view of a man who wants to sell you a Bible… whether you want one or not” – was at the top of the heap, along with “Quite Contrary” (a surreal fantasia of nursery rhyme characters breaking bad) and the blues moan of “Pallisade.”
And while to some it may sound ridiculous (or even sacrilegious), there was no denying comparisons to early Elvis, and to watch Parker Millsap work his musical magic in the intimate confines of the Ale House was simply a glorious delight.