Time Has Made a Change, the new LP by Jeff Parker & Company
Riddled with executional swagger and yet brimming with a familial innocence in its casual harmonies, “While Endless Ages Roll” just might be my favorite song on Time Has Made a Change, the new LP by Jeff Parker & Company, but I can’t say that it’s the only balladic track that I enjoy on the latest record from Parker’s ongoing collaborative project. It’s joined by a freewheeling bluegrass song in “You Can’t Break My Heart” that immediately grabbed my attention in the initial listening session I spent with the album, and along with the blushing “What About You,” the track remains among the more unforgettable bluegrass compositions I’ve come across lately. Bluegrass is one of the oldest and most celebrated genres in the American music lexicon, but in Time Has Made a Change, it gets a second life courtesy of Jeff Parker & Company that doesn’t necessarily change its stylistic parameters as much as it reminds us all of why we fell in love with the culture, the color and the craft that makes this kind of music everything that it is today.
Strung together against the grain of an exquisite mandolin and accented with a lovely fiddle from Ronnie Stewart, “He Guides My Life” features a rhythmic sway that is nothing less than divine, but the bread and butter of its charisma lies in the melodies that it contains in spades. Despite the differences between the tempo of this song and that of “A Memory of You,” I thought that these two tracks probably represent the yin and yang of Jeff Parker & Company’s sound better than any others on the LP do. Of course, songs like “Dixieland or Bust” and “Time Has Made a Change in Me” give us a good idea as to how adept this group is at managing an old school bluegrass-style of play, but “A Memory of You” and “He Guides My Life” are a bit more outside of the box and demanding of the band’s skillset as a collective. Under Parker’s leadership, they’re not just playing a tight set of songs in Time Has Made a Change; they’re actually paying homage to the forerunners of this genre, and more specifically, the pioneers who dared to try the untried when creating the very framework of today’s bluegrass.
Though it’s one of the more vocal-driven tracks on the record, “Wrong” has just as much of a hearty kick to its grooves as “Carolina Line” does (which is really saying something when taking a moment to enjoy the calculated nature of the latter song), but neither of these two tunes are quite as magical a listen as the album-opening “Southern Wind” is. “Southern Wind” sets the stage for everything that follows excellently, and while it’s probably the simplest of the first five tracks on Time Has Made a Change, there’s nothing mundane about its signature melody. Jeff Parker & Company are undisputedly bringing their A-game to this latest offering, and if Kentucky-grown bluegrass and straight up swing are your style, you can’t do much better than its ten fantastic songs.