Graham Parker: Your Country

Graham Parker: Your Country (Bloodshot Records)
You think you know somebody. You figure you’ve been a fan for some 25 years and you know every album pretty much by heart. And then, Graham Parker goes and puts out a country album on you. Okay, so maybe not strictly a country album, but I don’t remember hearing a pedal steel player on any of those classic English Pub Rock records he made in the ’70s.

For Graham Parker fans, this album is a bit of a departure, but it shouldn’t come as any real surprise. He is one of a very small cadre of artists who have managed to stick around this long without trading on past glory. If you picked up 2002’s Deepcut to Nowhere, you already know that Parker has only gotten better with age on all fronts: vocals, musicianship, and songwriting. Country is not a style of music Parker is typically associated with. There have always been traces of Motown in his songs, but never Nashville. Listen to Your Country, however, and you realize he would not be so out of place walking along Music Row. Songs like “Cruel, Cruel Lips” and “Anything for a Laugh” make him sound as though he’s been there all along, as does the swing he puts to his cover of Jerry Garcia’s “Sugaree.”

Still, there are other songs that are more like the Parker we know and love. “Nation of Shopkeepers” and its lyrics about being from England show that even though he may be briefly straying from his musical roots, his heart is still in his homeland. Country music fans, however, are perhaps the biggest benefactors of Parker’s foray into this style of music, if for no other reason than Parker could single-handedly stop country music lyrics from being the butt of so many jokes.

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