Based in Jersey, but born on the Dutch-Belgium border of Germany of English-German parentage, Esther Rose Parkes earned a degree in social anthropology at Sussex, a background that goes a fair way to explaining the themes of a yearning to find and become part of what she terms a soul-scape in a world of disconnection and alienation.
Having settled in Sweden for three years following a tour with Maria McKee, Parkes recorded The Other Country in Stockholm under the direction of blues guitarist Brian Kramer and while, officially, her debut release, it’s actually her second album, the first, recorded in 2008, never seeing light of day because of contractual reasons.
All but four of the 12 numbers are written in collaboration with her mother, the poet Linda Rose Parkes, who provides the lyrics, with the music bearing intermingled influences of folk, blues, jazz and soul, journeying from the gently strummed acoustic opener High Speed Train with its Wim Wenders reference and Kramer on National slide and the rippling, romance-weary Men In Tuxedos to the moody Pearl with its throbbing upright bass and jazz dynamics.
Of the self-penned numbers, In the House Of A Friend is a fragile piano and string heart-yearning ballad that shares her mother’s nature imagery while, arguably the best track,
Dancer’s Devil is an acoustic slow builder that evokes thoughts of Life On Mars era Bowie filtered through a prism of Nico and Procol Harum.
It’s not without its flaws, her vocals on Slaking The Dust are a little harsh on the higher notes and, melodically speaking, there’s not a world of difference between that and the following Mud River while mom’s lyrical style doesn’t really afford much opportunity to let the musical hair down and shake the tempo up a bit. But, overall, this is a country worth exploring further.
Review by: Mike Davies
The Other Country is Out Now (Self-released)