He’s bashed out 20 or so studio albums, nearly as many live albums and compilations, there’s an impressive catalogue there – even if you were sure you’d forgotten about him. Parker hasn’t forgotten about doing the work. That’s why he’s here. Yes, once he was a contemporary of Elvis Costello, of Springsteen and Petty perhaps too. And that might seem like a while ago now, but listen to this latest record. You’ll hear a guy – and a great band – that’s up with the play and making music that cracks along, full of that acerbic wit and wistful, graceful lines.
Most often I’m reminded here of John Hiatt, another workaholic songwriter somewhat underappreciated in the scheme of things. There’s a rasp to the voice that’s reminiscent of Hiatt’s slight blues tinge too.
But Parker’s muse is musically restless, won’t be pinned down, won’t settle. The Hiatt-like Railroad Spikes has a rockabilly shuffle to it, but it follows a John Lennon/Tom Petty-like commentary on the media’s bottom-feeding (Slow News Day) and the infectious summer pop of Pub Crawl is just another deviation.
Recorded in six days in London, this latest offering from The Rumour has a sparkle to it, a constant wiggle in its stride. And some damn fine songs. We might have forgotten that we need Parker. But we need him. He’s some sort of wonderful amalgam of Joe Jackson and Warren Zevon, a middle-ground (if you can imagine it). And here there’s grit, heart, soul and humour. This is (once again) Graham Parker & The Rumour. As good as they get. As good as they’ve always been. A generous helping of that title’s mystery ingredient holding it all together.