On Parker Millsap’s new album, The Very Last Day, the young singer/songwriter takes a major sonic leap forward thanks to Gary Paczosa’s brawny production. And, while the aural landscape certainly warrants acknowledgement, the original compositions definitely deserve admiration. Millsap’s dexterity in the writing department both belies his youthful age and betrays his old-soul wisdom.
Not wasting any time at all, the set’s opener, “Hades Pleads,” encapsulates everything that’s great about this record: solid songwriting, vigorous vocals, and fierce fiddling all boxed in a classic form and wrapped in an innovative package. Millsap’s performance feels primal, even urgent. Still, there’s an inherent poise making it perfectly clear that he is in control of the elements at hand: Nothing about him or his music ever feels forced or feigned.
Even so, there’s a certain swagger to Millsap’s work that clearly comes from an understated confidence rather than any bombastic arrogance. That humility is how he’s so easily able to narrate — or inhabit — the stories he tells. How many songwriters, for fear of backlash, would dare document the heart-rending story of a gay teen coming out to his preacher father as Millsap does on “Heaven Sent”? Not very many at all.
“Pining,” “Morning Blues,” “Wherever You Are,” “You Gotta Move,” “A Little Fire”… drop the needle anywhere on this album and be blown away.