They’ll Never Play Jonathan Parker & The Bel-Airs in Nashville
Nope. And that’s how you know it’s good.
When people start naming off the epicenters of music in America, North Carolina never gets its fair due. Folks gravitate to Nashville or Austin, while in many parts of North Carolina, music is just as much a focus of life. Whether it is the music scenes in Chapel Hill or Boone, the whole Ramseur Records outfit with acts like The Avett Brothers, or true, down home country acts like John Howie, Jr. and Eric Strickland, North Carolina can hold is own when it comes to birthing out American roots music worthy of ears. Hell, the Defibulators from New York just released a song about all the North Carolina musicians migrating to the big city and stealing all the banjo jobs.
You receive an album from North Carolina, and chances are the manna will come pouring out like cutting open the rind of some exotic fruit. After recently reviewing albums from Eric Strickland and John Howie Jr., they both reached out to me unsolicited and autonomous from each other and said, “Dude, you got to check out this guy over here, Jonathan Parker.” And no question, Jonathan Parker and The Bel-Airs live up to the stamp of North Carolina goodness.
If you like country, and I mean country, then Jonathan Parker’s They’ll Never Play My Songs In Nashville has you covered. This guy has a country growl that’s like Waylon Jennings mixed with the DNA of a hard-nosed bulldog. He’s quick to go to the half-time beat and really knows how to pull the misery out of a song. This is hard country, honky tonk music in its purest incantation. No frills, just lean forward and belt it out.
Just like Eric Strickland, Johnathan Parker doesn’t waste any time trying to wrangle a gaggle young buck musicians looking to tour and take their portion of the spotlight. He knows the best licks come from the wily old veterans of the honky tonks, and he assembles some of the best North Carolina has to offer in the Bel-Airs, including regional celebrity and steel guitar maestro Clyde Mattocks; a man that also had a hand in Eric Strickland’s latest album. Jonathan Parker doesn’t need to do much but set the table for these honky tonk heroes, and they proceed to conjure the ghosts of country music past from a time when you didn’t have to chase your proclamation as a country fan with qualifying statements.
Similar to other hardcore honky tonkers like Dale Watson and Whitey Morgan, sometimes straightforward hard country can be difficult translate into the recorded format, because you don’t have the honky tonk setting to help set the mood, or the energy that only live music can evoke. This is the reason when Waylon went to make albums, he recorded so many ballads. True country fans won’t have any trouble getting into They’ll Never Play My Songs in Nashville, but this may not be a good gateway drug to lure your pop country friends toward the real stuff. Jonathan Parker has no qualms bringing the misery and slow heartache song after song, or speaking out about the current state of country music like he does in the title track.
“The Encounter” is the song where Jonathan Parker’s evocation of emotion is at its most powerful, while “Circles” is the album’s surprise—picking up up the tempo just a bit, rolling off the hard drawl, and accompanied by a female harmony to really give it a classic country feel harkening back to a time before Waylon.
A good album from a solid group of men, recommended if you like your country music hard and uncut.
1 1/2 of 2 guns up.
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Preview & Purchase Tracks from They’ll Never Play My Songs in Nashville
September 22, 2013 @ 1:07 pm
Asheville, NC is a music town, too. One of my favorite Alt-country groups were the Backsliders, from Raleigh.
And though I know that “Nashville” has become code for cooperate country, there is plenty of wonderful country music in Nashville if you know where and when to look.
First listen to this record is certainly positive, even if this isn’t new musical ground.
September 22, 2013 @ 3:25 pm
I agree the Nashville corporate stereotype is outmoded, and with it these type of songs come across as dated. But in its entirety I like this album, and I understand the sentiment behind that song.
I wrote this a few years ago:
A more recent one on the subject:
September 22, 2013 @ 3:18 pm
I swear anti-Nashville songs in alt-country has become just like Truck songs in mainstream country. Enough already
September 22, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
I think there can be good anti-Nashville songs, but I thought “They’ll never play my songs in Nashville” is pathetically derrivative:
Name drops Willie, Waylon, and Haggard (nashville blues)
Rock and Roll guitars (Murder on Music Row, Nashville Rash)
You also had the line “I guess they done forgot about the outlaws, the one’s like Will, Waylon, and Me” Is almost verbatim from “Willie Waylon and Me” (“While in Texas the talk turned to Outlaws, Like Willie and Waylon and me.”) Maybe it was a hat tip, but the fact that the next chorrus they said “The one’s like merle and me” makes me not the case.
Also, some of the criticisms are just wrong, Is the problem that there aren’t enough songs that talk about Whiskey? Yes, there are lots of good songs about Whiskey, but there is no shortage of shitty ones that mention it today.
The album isn’t that bad, but I wasn’t impressed with the song
September 22, 2013 @ 3:52 pm
Nope. I’m 45 years old and I went to that soul sucking town when I was 21. Them fuckers deserve as many lumps as people give them. They make a habit out of crushing talent for the sake of market viability. I sang and danced when that town got flooded a few years ago. When traveling by I won’t even buy gas in that shithole.
September 22, 2013 @ 6:44 pm
Sounds like Whitey Morgan and Waylon to me. Good Stuff!
Tom The Polack
September 23, 2013 @ 3:25 am
Nice band. Title fits the music perfectly.
Tom The Polack
September 23, 2013 @ 3:48 am
The Anti – Nashville movement is getting stronger and stronger. I think it`s a good sign. The opposition against pop – country should grow and grow. That’s what all we – real country music fans – dream about, I guess.
September 23, 2013 @ 5:31 am
Never say never! There’s still a few of us here in this God forsaken town that’s fighting the good fight!
September 23, 2013 @ 9:20 am
Actually sounds alot like Jamey Johnson especially in the song “The Way Things Used to Be”.
September 23, 2013 @ 6:59 pm
That’s some fine country music right there. Another discovery from this site. I’ll be purchasing this one ASAP
September 24, 2013 @ 7:48 am
Enjoying this album. I am a sucker for reverb drenched telecasters. The Bel-Airs are a damn fine band.
September 25, 2013 @ 9:28 am
NC is becoming a new mecca for raw honkytonk music. Proud to say we come from the same home town!
October 31, 2013 @ 7:58 pm
Being from the area in which Jonathan Parker and the Bel Airs are from I have to say these guys are great along with Eric Strickland and the B sides. Johnston County, NC. To the comment about him name dropping Waylon Willie and so I can promise you this guy has the up most respect for the ole outlaws. Its just another way of saying the shit your playing aint country and have you forgot who got you this far…. Kelly on lead guitar is one of the best lead guitarist ive ever heard on a telecaster and Clyde Mattocks well I don’t even have to explain anything about him he has forgotten more about the steel guitar than most will ever learn. He was in the old country band the Super grit cowboy band. But anyway long story short these boys love true traditional country and they love playing it….