Ever since Woody Guthrie ambled out of Okemah with a Fascist-killing machine and a fistful of ageless songs about the flaws and graces of America in particular and mankind in general, Oklahoma has produced a broad variety of musical truth-tellers. The latest native Okie to make his presence known in a fairly big way is Parker Millsap, a 21-year-old singer/songwriter with a penchant for heartfelt storytelling on a canvas that includes Country, Rock and Blues and who looks a little like a cross between Leonardo DiCaprio and Jason Isbell, has a raspy voice that cuts through the air like the rusty whistle on a Gospel train and attacks his slice-of-life lyrics with the damnation-be-damned passion of a tent-revival preacher.
Millsap grew up in Purcell, Okla., in the Pentecostal tradition of church three days a week. At age 9 he took up the guitar, switching to electric to play the Blues after hearing Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan for the first time. After high school, Millsap headed west and interned at Prairie Sun Recording, the renowned studio that has hosted sessions by Paul McCartney, Tom Waits, Neko Case and Van Morrison, among many other notables.
Upon his return to Oklahoma, Millsap returned to his acoustic roots and began concentrating on his estimable songwriting skills. In short order, he recorded his 2012 debut album, Palisade (co-credited to high school pal Michael Rose), which he sold out of the back of his van. Millsap’s subsequent appearance at Nashville’s songwriting festival Tin Pan South moved Old Crow Medicine Show’s manager to offer him a handful of opening slots for the band, which ultimately led to similar gigs with Shovels & Rope, Lake Street Dive and Patty Griffin.
Early last year, Millsap released his self-titled sophomore album, populated with incredible songs featuring a surreal cast, including meth-cooking fairy tale characters, a 16-wheel minister, a lottery-ticket addict and a fire-and-brimstone wife murderer. Parker Millsap isn’t here to be the savior of Country music — he’s here to slap a whole lot of sense back into that big hat-wearing head.
Tickets/more info here.