It’s an age old practice for eager, aspiring musicians to rush off to the major urban hubs — New York, Los Angeles, Nashville– sloughing off their humbler origins in search of fame. Not so for singer/songwriter Levi Parham, whose hometown of McAlester, Oklahoma simply ran too deep in his veins, evidenced by his 2013 debut, which he self-recorded and released, An Okie Opera. Though he’s since been around the country and back, recording in Austin and Nashville along the way, perhaps it’s his outright refusal to turn his back on the state he calls home that makes him such an exciting new musical voice, singing with an occasionally world-weary, sometimes playful, but always powerful authority on America.
Today, Elmore is exclusively streaming These American Blues, Parham’s third studio album, due out on Music Road Records on June 24th. Parham says of the record’s title track and the album’s inspiration, “”These American Blues” is a play on This American Dream. It came about one day while talking with my dad. He had just gotten a smart phone and had proclaimed to me that “there weren’t nothin’ left to find out.” I laughed so hard at that, but there was truth to it. Half the fun of dreaming is searching the whole thing out, figuring out what your dream is and how you get there. I know nothing about cars, but from one YouTube video I could take the whole engine apart and put it back together. I didn’t earn that knowledge. I didn’t spend my high school nights in the garage trying to figure that stuff out. There’s something lost there, and that’s where “These American Blues” came from.”
There are hints of lonesome, Western expanse to the album, which finds Parham wrestling with, as he says, the changing face of the American Dream. “Wish I was back in Grandma’s arms,” he intones on the sinister, wailing “Chemical Train.” But he also hits soaring, jubilant highs, pulling out an exquisite falsetto on “I’m Behind Ya,” a rollicking declaration of support to a lucky partner, and embracing the tenderness of pedal-steel driven country on “Waiting Game,” a loving assertion of apple pie virtues. Throughout the record, Parham performs a remarkable feat of musicianship, stitching together scraps of fabric from across the American soundscape, the full bodied sound of gospel, the twang of country, the driving guitars of rock, the mournful picking of the blues.
On These American Blues, Parham travels through an America both mythic and all-too-real. It’s a cross-country journey of an album, so what are you waiting for? Hit the road.
Stream These American Blues below, and pre-order the album via iTunes here.