Album Review

Parlor James - Dreadful Sorry

Parlor James - Dreadful Sorry

Parlor James' fronting duo of Amy Allison and Ryan Hedgecock take the traditional lineage of duet singing, a la the Stanley Brothers or Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, straight through your heart on their debut EP. Allison, the daughter of jazz great Mose, and Hedgecock, a founding member of Lone Justice, have found the perfect complement in each other, in terms of both songwriting and vocal performance. Allison's voice is on a similar plane as those two Williams girls, Lucinda and Victoria, but she is completely capable of placing her own stamp on whatever she sings. Parlor James' "acid Appalachia" sound benefits greatly from the help of multi instrumentalist and producer Malcolm Burn on Allison's tearful, tranquil ballad "Cheater's World", with its opening clincher, "I've been drinking vodka and thinking 'bout ya." Burn's piano playing lends a special essence to this classic. The spooky, bass-filled atmosphere of "Lost My Way" has much more to do with the Smoky Mountains than Brooklyn, but artistic authenticity should be judged on musical merit, not an artist's choice of hometown, so long live the backwoods sounds of suburbia: Allison hails from Long Island, and Hedgecock is originally from Torrance, California. Though they deliver country ballads such as "Down on Dreaming" with full emotion, sung the way they were meant to be sung, this band also rocks. "Snow Dove", a traditional haunting story of suicide, slams the hammer down hard while crackling to a frenzy with fiddle work from Mindy Jostyn. Hedgecock's "Devil's Door" is another rocker on which the pair's entwined vocals reach a melodic high that's complemented by Burn's funky toy-drum playing. Parlor James displays all the promise and passion Lone Justice lost after their first album, and the prospect of great musical growth is there for the taking. On a related front, Koch International has released Amy Allison: The Maudlin Years, a collection of Allison's songs with her band the Maudlins. There is an early version of "Cheater's World" on the disc, and the roughness of the recording shows where Allion has been. The step taken from Maudlin to Parlor James is a giant one.