2017 CONCERT SERIES
Something of a landmark release for Texas singer/songwriter, Rodney Parker, “Bomber Heights” is the follow up to two EP’s that were warmly received by fans and critics alike. But it’s a little but more than that – and you guess that on a personal level, the fact that Parker is also joined by original 50 Peso Reward band members Brooks Kendall (bass) and Danny Skinner (guitar, banjo), is special for everyone.
The pair take their places in a line-up that is a wonderful mix of the old and new. Zach Galindo (lead guitarist on all previous RP50PR records), lends his wonderfully understated guitar work to the nine songs here, while Gabriel Pearson and Hank Early (both current members of Turnpike Troubadours), drummer Grady Don Sandlin (RTB2, Raised Right Men), along with Daniel Creamer (Jonathan Tyler), Andy Rogers(Raised Right Men) and Adrian Hulet (formerly of Oso Closo) are all here too.
But as everyone knows, you can have all the cast in the world, but without the songs then like the record signing at a football club (I suppose we’d best call it soccer, considering the nationality we are dealing with….) who comes in and the manager doesn’t have a clue what to do with him (not that this reviewers team is undergoing these issues, you understand…..) things can go south very quickly indeed.
Happily then, on “Bomber Heights” the songs are brilliant, but also renowned producer Matt Pence(Centro-Matic, Justin Townes Earle) worked his magic on the record and really pulled things together.
The end result, actually is somewhere in between Justin’s old man and Wilco, as the old friends give the thing a tremendous warmth, while the presence of the newbies injects a tremendous sense of urgency to proceedings.
It’s hard actually to think of a note out of place, never mind a song that doesn’t work. There is a brooding darkness, for example about “Stepping Into Sunshine” that is at odds with its title, but as Parker notes: “for every man that works this earth, there is a dark side.”
“Skin And Bones” is a different beast altogether, with echoes of Whiskeytown, it has an admirable swing and confidence, while the superb “Lewis” is hung together by some fine Lap Steel work and lyrics that are from left field – a feeling that the countrified “I Am A Cinematographer” doesn’t lose on its way to being a real highlight Songs about leaving and new starts have done before, of course, and a million times, but rarely in such a fashion.
A collection that is short, both in terms of amount of songs and time it takes, still finds time for myriad twists and turns. The throttled back “Road Between None And Some” is a brilliant piece of evocative storytelling, while “The Day Is Coming” is uplifting and almost works as a counter-balance, together with its use of horns, which gives things a kind of soulful JJ Grey And Mofro feel.
“Night In My Hand” is another journey into something new. Something of thumper, you guess it will go down a storm in a live setting, while “Ballast” has a hypnotic quality, and the eight minute long “Moon” which ends things is beautifully simple and simply beautiful.
In that respect it is not out of place with the rest, as “Bomber Heights” is worthy of its personnel , but more importantly probably the record of Rodney Parker and 50 Peso Reward’s career to date. This is a real gem.