With an unsophisticated swing and a bevy of elegant melodies to lead the way, Jeff Parker issues his most refined record to date under the Jeff Parker & Company banner in Time Has Made a Change, a simple bluegrass record with some remarkably smooth songs in its tracklist. Sporting such easygoing numbers as “Southern Wind,” “He Guides My Life,” “While Endless Ages Roll” and the smoky “You Can’t Break My Heart,” Time Has Made a Change has a very black and white structure, but ironically I would actually say that it’s one of the more colorfully melodic LPs in the bluegrass genre available this month.
“Dixieland or But,” “A Memory of You” and “Carolina Line” are, as I see them, all about their string physicality, while other tracks here, like “What About You,” “Time Has Made a Change in Me” and “Wrong” emphasize the basic fundamentals of a velvety vocal harmony more than they do any sort of instrumental virtuosities, but the two sets of songs don’t conflict with one another as much as it might seem they would on paper. There’s a balance to the diversity of the material here that was really refreshing to discover when first picking up Time Has Made a Change, and I actually think it will help a lot of bluegrass novices get into the record more than they would have otherwise.
In “He Guides My Life” and “You Can’t Break My Heart,” Jeff Parker & Company showcase the precise reason why this genre still has as many disciples as it does in 2019; consistency of craftsmanship. The tone of every instrument, from the guitar parts to the mandolin textures and right back to the illuminous lyric delivered by the lead vocal, is given the VIP treatment behind the soundboard in this album, with even the smallest of intricacies weighing on the emotional landscape of the music (whether intentional or not). The meticulousness of detail is impressive in its own right, but it’s far from being the main reason why this LP works.
I think that “While Endless Ages Roll,” “A Memory of You” and “Southern Wind” would probably sound even better in a live setting than they do here, as they undeniably contain a certain emotion in their play that could come into its own excellently on the stage. The energy that this group has in the studio is really something, but if it translates as well in-person as it does in a record like Time Has Made a Change, theirs would be an unmissable show to say the least.
Those of you who weren’t already paying attention to Jeff Parker & Company are going to have more than one excuse to keep an eye on their future output after giving this latest LP a spin, and I am by no means the only critic saying as much this November. Of all five albums that Parker has released with this vehicle, this may well be the most cut and dry of the bunch, but for what it lacks in over the top fluff it more than compensates for in natural, 100% authentic melodicism of the most superior strain.
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