Parker Millsap’s ever-evolving stylistic range captivates audience at The HI-FI Annex in Indy
Photos By Laura Fox
Review By Ella Loman
Growing up in Texas, country music was the soundtrack of my childhood. Whether it be a football game or margarita happy hour, the soul and twang of country music was a crucial element for almost any occasion. However, as I grew up and developed my own unique musical preferences, I also discovered the tremendous diversity within the country-folk music genre. The rise in popularity of borrowing from and even crossing over into other musical genres has dramatically changed the scope of what we consider country music. This broadening of style has given rise to a new generation of artists whose music cannot be categorized into a single genre or sound; artists who self-classify their work based on the influences and inspiration that define them as individuals; artists like Parker Millsap.
Thursday evening at the HI-FI Annex in Indianapolis, singer-songwriter Parker Millsap performed a show that perfectly captured his Oklahoma country roots while highlighting his range and variety as an artist. Millsap and his band started the evening off with a lively performance of their country-rock hit “Hands Up” from their 2016 Album The Very Last Day. True to its title, this song quickly had every member of the crowd on its feet with their hands in the air before the band had time to reach the first chorus. The enthusiasm of the musicians was infectious, setting the tone for an exciting and soulful performance that captivated the audience and left everyone wanting more.
Following their explosive opening song, the second song on their set list gave the audience a taste of Millsap’s new work. “It Was You”: a jazzy blues-rock ballad is just one of the many songs from their 2021 album Be Here Instead. The raspy soulful edge of Millsap’s voice coupled with the unison descending melodies in the fiddle and keys evoked a feeling of melancholic nostalgia that runs through much of this newly released album. Not only did this bluesy lament show off Millsap’s impressive vocal range, it also gave an opportunity to showcase the incredible virtuosity of the other musicians on stage.
One of the highlights of the evening was Millsap’s solo acoustic performance of another song from his 2018 Album. Appropriately titled “Heaven Sent”, this song cuts deep into the core of what it means to grow up in the Bible Belt and the oppositional messages that flood our consciousness and collective sense of morality. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience as Millsap performed this deeply personal tribute to the pain and struggles faced by LGBTQ youth in the heart of evangelical America. The lyricism of this song gives a nod to Millsap’s Pentecostal upbringing, but more importantly, it encourages the listener to contemplate the meaning of love, kindness, and humanity through a profoundly introspective lens.
The remainder of the set list was almost exclusively comprised of works from Millsap’s newest album Be Here Instead. The overall vibe of the music leans heavily towards the blues and jazz traditions, with the subject matter following suit. Songs like “Passing Through”, “To be Real”, and “In Between” are not only brilliant examples of stylistic range and musical contrast; they seem to suggest a meaningful departure from the subject matter and focus of much of Millsaps earlier discography. Instead of telling stories about the world around him, Millsap turns inside for inspiration; a technique of songwriting that has characterized the Blues genre since its conception. Whether it be quarantine, pandemic life, or simply personal artistic choice; this 2021 album presents a more contemplative, introspective side to Millsap’s music that we haven’t seen before. And it is this vulnerability and emotional honesty that makes his music so compelling and his performances so captivating.
More information about the artist as well as upcoming tour dates can be found at https://www.parkermillsap.com