Review: The Parlor Soldiers – When the Dust Settles (Self Released, 2011)
The Parlor Soldiers are a guitar, percussion and vocal duo hailing from Fredericksburg, Virginia. The tight, forceful folk vocals of their debut immediately brings to mind the duets of Richard & Mimi Farina, the modern riff on the male-female dynamic rendered by Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, as well as the intertwined emotional give-and-take of the Civil Wars. Dan Dutton’s double bass fills a lot of space with its low tones, but it’s the downbeats and rhythm guitar that push the vocals along to the lyrics’ inevitable retribution. They trade lines Johnny-and-June style on “Crazy,” including the playful epithet “you’re no Johnny Cash” among a series of verbal wrestling holds. Karen Jonas has an old-timey trill in her voice (though for a moment on the title track the warble sounds a bit like Stevie Nicks), and the pair convincingly swap verses on the rocking lo-fi blues “Long Gone.” They sing of dissipated and philandering drunks, small-time lawlessness, lost dreams, and relentless wanderers in a world populated with bitter realities and smoking embers. There are a few rays of optimism in the winter desolation of “The Old Plow,” a hopeful ending to the stream-of-consciousness “Mess,” and a surprisingly inspirational closer, “Don’t Let Your Dreams Get You Down.” All of this is further heightened by recordings that powerfully fuse the writers’ scripted angst with the performer’s live truth. Highly recommended for fans of Richard & Mimi, Ian & Sylvia, Holly & Dave and Joy & John.