Christmas songs are as big a part of the season as crowded shopping malls and spiked eggnog, but there are only so many times you can hear “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” without wanting to wretch just a little. Here are some suggestions for compiling a Yuletide playlist that perhaps isn’t quite so musty. Much of the music can be purchased or ordered locally at Guestroom Records, Size Records and the like.
Fledgling singer-songwriter and Purcell native Parker Millsap builds
quite a foundation with stand-up bassist Michael Rose on their debut, Palisade. From the sounds of it, a monumental career is in the works.
Like velvet laid over gravel, Millsap’s voice plays gruff, jagged and unexpectedly smooth at the same time. He captures the essence of Tom Waits’ vocals better than a 19-year-old singer ever should; fans of Closing Time-era Waits will find lots to like here, albeit more countrified.
The opening title track saunters with a saucy strut that lets out a wallop over Millsap’s equally impressive abilities on the guitar. The more delicate “Seed” drifts like a dandelion across the sunset, and the pair fires full-force on the harrowing “Farmer’s Lament” and never lets down over 11 tracks.
It’s important not to undervalue Rose’s contributions. He’s not just Robin to Millsap’s Batman; his expertly placed bass lines give Palisade the weight it needs in lieu of drums or other backup.
Most impressive is that despite every opportunity to sand down that monumental voice into something more accessible and bending the arrangements to a poppier plane (think Mumford & Sons), the duo commits wholeheartedly to a more vintage appeal, thus giving them a character and credibility few other acts enjoy.
Palisade is dynamite, and if the right pieces fall into the right places, it’s not hard to imagine Millsap’s name up there with the likes of modern folk troubadours like Ray LaMontagne and Ryan Adams. He’s just that good. —Joshua Boydston