Holy Roller, Rock and Roller
After Parker Millsap flashed plenty of promise on his 2014 debut, this supercharged sophomore effort ups the ante on every level. The Very Last Day (out March 25 on Thirty Tigers/Okrahoma) combines the apocalyptic vision and thematic depth that its title suggests with a rocket-in-the-pocket intensity that makes the young Oklahoman sound like a force of nature. This explodes like the spontaneous combustion of holy roller and rock and roller, where the preacher’s thunder meets the devil’s fire.
Though Millsap has forsaken the fundamentalism of his upbringing, his unbridled vocals retain that fervor, applying it to subject matter that ranges from nuclear holocaust (the title cut) to forbidden love (“Heaven Sent”) to a convenience store stick-up (“Hands Up”). The latter two anticipate the emergence of a Red Dirt Springsteen, with the intro to the former echoing the musical progression of The River and the latter evoking the dead-end desperation of Nebraska.
Particularly chilling is the bare-bones spirituality of “You Gotta Move,” more powerful than the Rolling Stones’ revival of that gospel blues standard. You can also hear some Buddy Holly on “Pining.” Yet Millsap is no imitator, nor is he a revivalist, but an artist channeling the spirit of timeless Americana and renewing it with his own sonic signature. There isn’t a note here that sounds studied or contrived.