Album Review

The Return of Peter Parcek

Peter Parcek - Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven

The Bible talks about the number seven quite a bit. Seven years of famine, seven years of plenty. It’s been seven years since Peter Parcek last released an album, and that seems like a musical famine of sorts. Especially when the album is as good as his new release, Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven.

To be completely honest, I had never heard of Parcek until this album, but he’s been working alongside some of the greatest blues musicians known. Parcek has worked with Pinetop Perkins and Hubert Sumlin, and received high praise from Buddy Guy. For this outing Parcek brought some notable talent to the studio and the result is nothing short of stellar.

On drums Parcek is supported by producer Marco Giovino (Buddy Miller, Robert Plant).  Mickey Raphael, Willie Nelson’s harmonica player, provides some tasty harp work, and Spooner Oldham brings that Muscle Shoals vibe on keyboards. Luther Dickinson provides some fretboard mojo on four tracks as well, but the center around which these fine players orbit is Parcek. His guitar playing is nothing short of magical, at once intuitive and subtle, by turns expressive and dynamic.

The album totals ten tracks, six written by Parcek, three of which are instrumentals. The covers blend so well with his original material, and Parcek inhabits those covers so completely, that you could believe he wrote them all. The result is a seamless collection from start to finish. Nothing seems out of place or last minute.

The record starts with Peter Green’s “World Keep On Turning” and immediately we are drawn into Parcek’s musical vision. The song rides on Parcek’s edgy guitar tone and Giovino’s ominous drumming. Parcek’s vocal is world-weary and compelling, and the mood of the album is established from the beginning. It is obvious that Parcek has paid his dues.

 “See That My Grave is Kept Clean” is spectral, otherworldly, and, at times, downright spooky. Parcek’s vocal seems to be coming from beyond the veil, and the band creates a ghostly, haunting backdrop against which some stinging lead guitar work is laid down. Tracking at over seven minutes in length, Parcek doesn’t push the song as much as let it unfold at its own pace, a decision that ups the emotional power of the piece to great effect.

“Pat Hare” is the first of Parcek’s originals, an instrumental shuffle that gives the guitarist room for some funky fretwork. “Ashes to Ashes” continues the theme of mortality, a vein that runs through this record like a ghost train. Giovino again provides an anchor for some very greasy guitar pyrotechnics. Considering the number of musicians who have passed in the last couple of years, it is easy to see why Parcek is focused on the temporal nature of our existence.

“Every Drop of Rain” is drenched in the memories of a failed relationship. “Mississippi Suitcase” is a hill country boogie that is probably the most unadulterated fun on the record. It is a loosey goosey guitar romp that should be played really loud.

There are a lot of mediocre blues records out there. Guys who can play a lick but miss the soul of the music. Not Parcek. He’s the real deal. You won’t be able to take this one out of the cd player for a long while. Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven is a classic blues commentary on living and dying, a record that is significant in that it honors the roots of the blues while moving them forward in time.