ARTFUL, ECLECTIC, AND VISIONARY INDIE FOLK
2015 / 6 Tracks / 21 minutes
The confines of Christian music are slowly, but finally, being removed. Emerging artists like husband and wife duo Nate and Rachel Parrish are helping to lift the heavy veil that has played stalwart to the oft stale regurgitation of formulaic worship bands. That’s not to knock the business end of the Christian music industry, but rather to praise those, like Parrish, who take chances by making music they actually love in hopes that they are able to connect with people on a different level. This is a collection of songs that does exactly that.
Parrish is an organic departure for Nate, whose former and current bands (Worth Dying For and Kingdom) are punk-inspired arena rock. Anthemic in its own right, Parrish is a powerful blend of indie folk with elements of Americana, bluegrass, blues, and rock. It’s a sweeping sound, at once jarring and beautiful, and stands out for its strong dual vocals, precise rhythm, and soulful melodies.
Parrish squeezes a wide variety of sounds into its (much too short) twenty-one minute running time. The album opens with the raucous “Death Was Buried In Its Grave”, a tale about Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s a haunting song, a sort of modern neo-folk meets southern Gospel blues, with appropriately dissonant croons from Rachel that hearken back to the iconic sirens of country music’s past. Bolstered by a boot-stomping rhythm section with galloping drums, banjo-style picking, and tambourines, the message is heady and clear: “The cup it did not pass from his lips / And He drank deep, the punishment for sin / The lion became the Lamb / When God took the place of man”. Like it or not, this captures attention. This is bold songwriting.
Nate and Rachel share vocal duties on all of the tracks, but they mix it up brilliantly. Some feature alternating verses, some feature one with the other softly backing, some with full-blown harmonizing, and they all flow seamlessly from one track to the next. Nate’s baritone is reminiscent of a more hearty Mark Kozelek (or a less hearty Mark Lanegan), and is a perfect suitor for Rachel’s beautifully soaring pipes. They come together effortlessly on their rendition of “Nothing But The Blood”, a stunning and captivating closer with wildly minor keys, sorrowful lamenting, and a rockabilly guitar riff that Mike Ness would tip his beret to.
Lyrically, Parrish’s original songs are steeped in poetry. “In The Storm” chronicles God’s steadfastness in turmoil through metaphors (“My anchor digs into the sand / And if the waves should take me away from land / Let the wind fill my sails with air / For in the storm I know my Lord is there”). “Lord I Come To Thee”, an almost hymnal track with a stunningly powerful conclusion, features exquisite writing about how they come before Jesus: like a rebel with weapons laid down; like kings and queens undeserving of crowns; like a ship lost at sea let my anchor down; like the unfaithful bride now clothed in white, oh Lord I come to Thee. These are well-constructed, thoughtful songs.
But the true beauty of Parrish is found on “Refuge”, a heartbreakingly gorgeous ballad about Jesus’ famous last words “It is finished.” Armed with only a piano, acoustic guitar, and the occasional marching drum, “Refuge” showcases Rachel’s incredible vocal range. She floors us: “Let the weak say I am strong / Let the lost say I belong / The King is risen / The veil is torn / Let the saints go marching on”.
Parrish is an artful album, an eclectic and visionary leap forward in roots music. Nate and Rachel are gifted in a number of musical genres, but they have nestled comfortably into their own with this record. Parrish is our album showcase for the month of October.
Review by Jason Ramsey