words by tom johnson
Absorbed, as I am now, in a quiet room, in an empty house, with the dark clouds spitting rain against my window, it’s hard not to get lost in both the poetic and personal leanings of Monk Parker’s crushingly beautiful new record, Crown Of Sparrows. Shaped by the characters and charades that play out in the hidden shadows of America, all the rough and smooth, grim and pretty, the record is a striking document, the swelling, rich instrumentation as pertinent and enveloping as Parker’s own gravelled voice and captivating turn of phrase.
Released tomorrow, via New York City’s Grand Jury Music, and Stargazer Records in Europe, the story behind Parker’s latest work belies the aforementioned tenderness somewhat; the record crafted with the help of more than thirty musical acquaintances, including members of Okkervil River, The Polyphonic Spree, Heavy Trash, and Swans. Despite that swathe of talent, Crown Of Sparrows still feels defiantly individual, thanks in no small part to Parker’s antiquated voice which sits as the seasoned protagonist across every moment of the record, occasionally leaping in to life – see the epic closing track ‘Drowned Men’ – or scaled back to reveal something altogether more raw and tender, such as on the burned-out wonder of ‘Night Market’.
It’s when these two sides of the coin meet that the real magic is found, however, and the record’s centre-piece, the five-minute swell of ‘Prom’, might well be the stand-out moment here, a beautifully-detailed, gorgeously delivered piece of brass-led, melodramatic pop music that offers up the kind of landscape that you can so easily get lost in. Reminiscent of the likes of The Felice Brothers at their most wholesome sounding, the track is indicative of a record that doesn’t just lay it all out on the line, but one that invites, us and you, the listeners, in to its weary, rain-soaked world, offering solace and warmth, voice and vision, as it rolls through six compositions that will fill the space around you and linger for long after the last of its light has been extinguished.
A compelling and beautiful record from start-to-finish, Parker continues to push the boundaries of country music as it exists right now – and we’re very pleased to present a full stream of his latest record here today. Check it out right now.