Review: Joyann Parker proves blues aren’t ‘Hard to Love’

Jeannine Marie Photography

Lucky for blues fans, Joyann Parker’s “Hard to Love” was released on Friday, April 13.
Jeannine Marie Photography

People say the blues are “Hard to Love,” but Joyann Parker proves them wrong with her eloquent new album with the same title.

“I’ve been performing for some younger crowds,” Parker said. “They say they don’t like blues. People in general say that. I tell them, ‘I think you do.’ And after I perform something for them, they say, ‘Oh. I love that song.’ I say, ‘That’s blues.’ Every kind of music they like comes from blues. The music in a restaurant, in a movie or TV soundtrack, there’s always a blues tune.”

Parker, herself, is a relatively new blues aficionado. She said the music discovered her.

A classically trained pianist with a degree in music from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, Parker previously sang in church and with a wedding band.

“I didn’t know anything about blues until about four years ago,” the Minneapolis-based artist said. “But then it just clicked. I said, ‘This is what I am supposed to do.’ ”

The door to blues and soul music opened almost accidentally. After singing Aretha Franklin’s soul classic, “Chain of Fools,” at a contest, Parker received an invitation to join a blues band. Accustomed to studying music formally, Parker immersed herself in the blues. “I started going to the blues jams in town, trying to figure out what it’s all about,” she said. “And that was it. It just clicked for me.”

The following year, the band – Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea – won the Minnesota Blues Society’s band competition and in 2015 went to Memphis to represent the blues society and compete in the International Blues Challenge. That experience inspired her to write the songs that appear on “Hard To Love.”

Parker sings in a contralto reminiscent of Pheobe Snow, and she plays piano, guitar and trumpet on the 13-track “Hard to Love.” The songs are co-written by Parker and guitarist Mark Lamoine. It is produced by Parker, Lamoine and bass player Michael Carvale.

There are myriad hues of blue on the full-length album: soul, Memphis, New Orleans, Motown, Delta and rock. New listeners will be thrilled to discover the true blues from Joyann Parker, whose music is easy to love.

  • Joyann Parker
    ‘Hard To Love’
    Release: April 13, 2017
    Standout tracks: ‘Jigsaw Heart,’ ‘Memphis’

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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