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  • Jonathan Widran

CHRISTIAN PARKER, Change Is Now: A Tribute To The Byrds.

In 2023, Upstate New York indie singer/songwriter Christian Parker took a breather from a quick digital rollout of four of the five solo albums he had recorded over the years to bring his fans – and everyone on the planet who loves 60’s vocal harmony driven folk rock – an intricately crafted, powerhouse re-imagining of a classic Byrds album, titled Sweethearts: A Tribute to the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo. This 1968 masterwork by the all-star band was the first album widely recognized as country rock and a seminal progressive country album which took the supergroup away from the psychedelic rock of their previous collection The Notorious Byrd Brothers.

Though Parker’s interpretation of Roger McGuinn’s legendary guitar tone is prevalent throughout, the focus was clearly on the songs, the vocals and the alternately sweet and rambunctious country spirit the Byrds embodied on the original album. Covering an expansive array of material from throughout The Byrds’ eight year discography, Change Is Now: A Tribute to the Byrds takes a radically different approach.

While Parker’s solo voice is beautiful and the harmonies he creates with Todd Staudinger and Jennifer Kessler ( who also contributes lovely violin) a transcendent delight, that swirling, try to not harmonize along vocal magic seems to be besides the point. Rather, across the wondrous sweep from the jangling, hypnotic socially conscious “Change Is Now” and the plucky, rambunctious “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” on through the Dylanesque, acoustic folkie “The Last Thing On My Mind,” Parker’s focus is on paying homage to McGuinn’s inimitable 12-string Rickenbacker vibe that made his musical heart soar with the Byrds to begin with.

Listening to Parker’s sharp, shimmering tones on graceful ballads (“Wild Mountain Thyme”) and snappy romantic romps (“Your Gentle Way of Loving Me”) alike, we’re compelled to want to learn more about McGuinn’s two innovative and influential styles (jingle jangle and a merging of John Coltrane’s free jazz atonalities) and how he used a compressor to create that unique style on the Rickenbacker. Besides the  impeccable guitarisma Parker showcases throughout, Change Is Now is also an amazing ensemble album featuring Gary Jacob on 12-string and pedal steel guitar and the dazzling piano of original Byrds session player Earl Poole Ball, best known for his two decades with Johnny Cash.


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