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At A Glance
Ian Parsons is Late On Time with CD - Showcase Magazine, November 29, 2008
Sometimes it's all about location. Ian Parsons keeps leaving New Hampshire for various destinations along the eastern seaboard, only to come back like so many graduation day deserters. Unlike the furrowed brows of a homebound-for-the-summer undergrad, however, Parsons' person seems to get a spiritual uplift of sorts by being back in our great state. He seems genuinely affected by it, having already titled his five-song 1999 EP Live Free or Die and naming the first single from his new CD Late On Time after what I presumed to be his hometown of Milton Mills. His lyrics and press kit contain near-constant references to the struggle between urban culture and rural comfort, between the adventures of travel and "gratitude for the safety and tranquility of home." He's like the bastard son of Fritz Weatherbee and a less self-conscious Beck. Ian Parsons seems to understand where he feels most comfortable, though, which is apparently not behind a drumset. Ian had been playing drums for 15 years when he decided to try his hand at being a singer/songwriter way back yonder in 1990. Now he's about to release a CD's worth of his own music, written, produced and mostly performed all by Ian himself. Apparently the place where Ian Parsons feels most comfortable is in charge. Not that Ian takes himself so seriously he can't have fun with it all; the title of his act humorously refers to the schmaltzy `80s prog-rock popsters the Alan Parsons Project, of "Eye in the Sky" fame. Despite his tackling of serious subject matter, he does so with enough clever lyrics and witticisms that his playfulness shines through. Late On Time is a nine-song testament to small town living, self-affirmation and sincere renewal. In Ian Parson's world, familiarity does not necessarily breed contempt, but more likely a sense of calm, peace and fulfillment. And despite a list of styles and influences that amuse and confuse (Chris Lopez of Atlanta's Rock*A*Teens? Butterflies' two Bryans? Indie brain pop?), these songs are all generally infectious, mostly acoustic folk rock that could be at home on modern rock, college, country or classic rock stations. The production is comfortably loose and live-feeling, having been recorded at local mainstay Dizzyland Studios, in part by that other local mainstay Andy Happel, who also provided string accompaniment on many of the tracks, as well as assuming mixing and mastering duties. The finished result is an often mellow, always introspective take on locale. Not only physical whereabouts, either, but spiritual, emotional and personal locales as well. In the first track, "Barba Poppa", the muse of an adult longs for the comfort of childhood, a kind of folksy mourning of the time of innocence and irresponsibility. The title refers to the obscure Saturday morning cartoon. The second track, "Small Fish", is a telling ballad of self-doubt and artistic frustration written whilst our lonely protagonist was living in Atlanta. The lyrics reflect and expand on the whole "small town/big fish" metaphor, complete with obligatory "master baiter" line. "Milton Mills (revisited)", the single, is another hometown praise where childhood memory mixes with newfound attitudes. "Just the Same" is in the same vein as the previous song, a laid back lecture on the benefits of knowing thyself and to thine self being true, including a Dr. Suess-esque verse at the end. "Rainout" is the requisite American baseball-as-metaphor-for-life song, "influenced by Ian's battles with seasonal depression and the many rained out baseball games that happened while attending high school in new Hampshire." See, it's all about location. "Country" provides a home for Parson's unique vocal drawl, a tenor occasionally soaked in twang and sarcasm. "Country" is the shining example of that urban/rural tug of war going on in Parson's head. "Backyard" confirms just about everything I've said, containing the confessional lyrics of "being here is a heaven on this earth/Milton Mills, New Hampshire brings me home/I've been so far away, but I just keep on comin' back/never let me feel alone, always make me feel at home." This melancholy ballad leaves the CD on a sad but inspirational note and features the Rev. Tom Fisher on flute, which intertwines nicely with acoustic guitar and piano. This is where I bust out and become totally honest as a CD reviewer-- Ian Parsons is a competent musician with a natural feel and an ear for melody. But in my humble estimations, the single best track on this CD is the title track "Late On Time", a frantic mix of country, alternative and punk, a Southern Culture on the Skids take on the merits of procrastination. But it is here in this song that Parsons' David Lowery influence (Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven) shines, as the song is catchy, quirky, and funny, and easily gives the listener the most vibe and energy for their investment. This song is where Parsons' unique vocal stylings finally find a home of their own, noticeably rising in strength and depth as the song progresses. Late On Time the CD is the downplayed story of a man wrestling with who he is and where he is, as if the two were infinitesimally linked in a one-dimensional cosmos, and perhaps, for Ian Parsons, they are. For his part, he's trying to make the proper changes to both place and person. When he releases Late On Time this Saturday at the Café on the Corner in downtown Dover at 8 p.m., he'll be kicking off yet another personal adventure, working with the café owners to coordinate the Corner into an all acoustic venue, featuring local original acoustic acts twice a month. And with the number of venues where live music can be heard diminishing rapidly in the area, this is a particularly worthy cause for fans of NH music. So while the Ian Parsons Reject provides Parsons with one adventure, he is still seeking out others. The only difference is that now he knows where he was meant to explore.
:: Fri 10/30/2009 8:33 PM
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