Across an almost 20 year career Anders Parker has cut his own path, zig zagging across roads and wilds with his music. From Portland, OR, to Brooklyn, NY, to Raleigh, NC, to Upstate New York, to Burlington, VT, with some short, rootless incursions into California, Texas, and beyond, Parker has left a trail of inspiration behind, while mining the earth, air, and gravity of each stop, turning that rugged ore into beautifully constructed testaments of life’s experiences.
Scorched Earth rock songs, fragile acoustic tunes, shiny synth-pop, ambient instrumental drones, aching duets, pastoral folk, winding arrangements, and more, have all been explored through his prolific output.
Parker has released five albums under his own name, including a double record and an album of guitar instrumentals. Under the Varnaline moniker, Parker released five albums between 1996 and 2001. In addition, he teamed up with Jay Farrar to form Gob Iron. Jim James and Will Johnson joined those two to bring the archived lyrics of Woody Guthrie to life in the New Multitudes “supergroup” project. Parker released a beautifully lyrical album with longtime ally Kendall Meade under the band name Anders & Kendall. He was also a member of noise rock band Space Needle, and Parker continues to aid and abet a long list of colleagues and friends in their efforts along the way.
Parker’s new record, There’s a Blue Bird in my Heart, will be released on June 17, 2014 via his own Recorded and Freed label. The album of nine distinct tracks was created in Burlington, VT, with Parker’s band, Cloud Badge (Creston Lea and Steve Hadeka). The initial tracks were all cut live before the process relocated to Athens, GA, for additional recording and mixing by the legendary David Barbe (Bob Mould, Drive-By Truckers, Son Volt). This new album is 21st century classic rock; each song is its own journey to the corners of Parker’s musical mind.
“An intuitive, emerging classicist destined to carve out his own chapter.” “a poignant, articulate voice…superb, emotional”
— Magnet Magazine
“Country-rock dipped in LSD? Anders Parker is a tough one to pin down. His songs weave somewhere around the Beatles, Neil Young, Husker Du and the Minutemen, to name a few.”
“Rock’s ancient history offers few examples of wayward talent somehow left alone to pursue an eccentric, uncommercial vision: Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, Skip Spence’s Oar, and anything by Syd Barrett…. there’s no denying the visceral pull of Parker’s plaintive vocals, and uncluttered naked emotion…”
— London Sunday Times
…his music could be categorized as “alt-classic.”… he distinguishes himself with his songwriting, through a combination of craft, conviction and open ended wonder.
— No Depression
“Anders Parker is the kind of artist whose work, at whatever point you happen to be exposed to it first, will lure you to seek out the rest.”
“Like the soft-spoken friend who astounds you once you finally train your ears to pay attention. The songs turn down flashy for something much more welcome and rare: enduring.”
— Pop Matters
Anders Parker There’s A Blue Bird In My Heart album bio
Anders Parker has a recording of new music coming out June 17th, and it is called There’s a Blue Bird in my Heart. Released by his new record label, Recorded and Freed, the album of nine distinct tracks was created in Burlington, Vermont with Parker’s Cloud Badge compatriots, Creston Lea and Steve Hadeka. The initial tracks were all cut live, before the process relocated to Athens, Georgia for additional recording and mixing by the legendary David Barbe (Bob Mould, Drive-by Truckers, Son Volt), and guest appearances by local Athens talent.
This is the first release of new Parker material in over four years. A.P. did not sit idle during the interim, having recorded and released more than twenty-three tracks with the Woody Guthrie-inspired New Multitudes supergroup that also included Jay Farrar, Jim James, and Will Johnson. He also released a beautifully lyrical album of music with longtime ally Kendall Meade called Wild Chorus under the band name, Anders and Kendall.
All of these efforts add to the continued entries in the ledger of his life’s body of work that include his work with Space Needle, Gob Iron (also with Jay Farrar), five albums recorded under the anonymity of the name Varnaline, five albums recorded under his name, and a live “field recording” from a Portland, Oregon tour stop in 2005.
Throughout literature, culture, and even theistic belief, the bluebird as a symbol connotes a sense of happiness and joy. In Native American vernacular, the bluebird is strong medicine––bluebird people are learning to embrace internal and external beauty, and accepting the delight that stems from that acknowledgement. In Iroquois legend, the song of the bluebird repels evil. Russian fairy tales denote is as a symbol of hope, and in nautical lore the sight of the bluebird tells a sailor he is headed in the right direction.
For Parker there is a bit of incongruity here. For most of his career, there has been a sense of darkness and foreboding lurking underneath his music and lyrics. In many cases the starkness of the location of creation has informed the mood of his expression. Has there been a shift here towards more light? Maybe. Or perhaps, there is the desire to prowl toward themes of inspiration, an acceptance of life as it exists, or just the inevitability associated with one’s maturation. His philosophical embrace may not yet be organic, and gratefully, that is the fuel for the engine that propels the listener through the journey.
The record opens with a truly astonishing composition, The Road. This is a tune that is a virtual experiment in progression where keys, tempo, and instrumentation change throughout its Odyssean breadth. Every refrain is confined to its section––there is no doubling back here––and the result is serpentine, just like its title.
There is an immediate crash into Animals, whichdistills the human experience down to the age-old battle of “flight or fight.” A syncopated guitar lick heralds the arrival here, and Parker’s howl before the transition is imbued with the contradiction between the reality of life and how we react to the natural forces of good and evil. There are excursions into double time, and a truly great lyrical phrase, “I take no pride in it; I know it’s wrong.”
Parker works hard to convince us that a personal transition has taken place with Don’t Let the Darkness In before it all may or may not fall apart. The overdriven guitar ride out leaves one pondering whether the advice is meant to be literally uplifting or ironically accusatory.
Unspokenbegins as a folk love song before evolving into a near operatic climax. “Life’s tragic, but magic too,” is a summation that speaks to growth and the perspective gleaned from experience.
Silver Yonder is a further attempt to keep the demons at bay. Parker asks us to look outside and see the beauty of it all. A single ukulele is the harbinger here and it conjures the image of someone standing in front of a window looking toward the West with affirmations of hope for the future.
The concept of hope for the future is explored further in the song, Feel It. It is a plea to the self here to recognize that existence is more than just the act of taking a breath.
Epic Lifeis a prayer for life’s meaning. The beauty of memory commingles with the present as the request becomes more specific––“Living for something bigger. Better than you figured. Where good is never good enough, and life is hard but not too tough.” He begs for evidence of surprise, and like the rest of the record––even if it may exist just outside of his grasp––he delivers it to the listener.
Jackbooted Thugs could be a symphonic chronicle of anger and disappointment at things that appear to be out of one’s personal control, or then again, it could be a tough rock song that combines modern psychedelia with a quasi- militaristic tempo. There is treat to the ear at the end of the song as the scalar boundaries compete for a higher plane.
The album closer is the old-timey See You on the Other Side. It’s the perfect closer with a concise message that the transition is still a work in progress, the result still very much in doubt.
With There’s a Blue Bird in my Heart, Anders Parker has produced a singular work that portrays a concerted effort to stretch, and a lot of the span that quantifies growth has been covered. It is like the bluebird itself––strong medicine, and the symptoms it treats are complacency and the desires to settle for the sake of convenience. Parker seems to be saying that the day has finally come for us to push through it all and see what’s left at the end.
— Erich Anderson
Anders Parker Re-issue bio
Chromosomal strands of DNA have replicated throughout the ten recordings being rereleased this spring––double helices where one side whispers the anonymity of the name Varnaline and the other blares the name of multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter, Anders Parker. There are signature echoes from all incarnations, but this is an artist who consistently challenges himself and his audience to listen closely, because the differences are surprising, wondrous, and palpable.
From Portland to Brooklyn to Raleigh to New Paltz to Burlington, with some short, rootless incursions into California and Texas, Parker has left a trail of inspiration behind, while mining the earth, air, and gravity of each stop, turning that rugged ore into beautifully constructed testaments of life’s experiences. There is some pain to be intuited here, but joy and exultation linger nearby. Whole worlds seemingly emerge and open the imagination. The desire to interpret becomes consequential.
Under the moniker, Varnaline, Parker released five albums between 1996 and 2001. The debut, Man of Sin, finds him playing every noise on the record and conjures the effort it might take to contain the core of a fusion reactor. There is leakage in the crunch and wail of guitar, but the meltdown is kept in abeyance, allowing the listener to feel as much as hear.
The second record is the self-titled Varnaline, where Parker enlisted his touring trio mates, drummer Jud Ehrbar (Space Needle) and bassist John Parker to assist. The expression begins to push outward here and covers everything from shred to power-pop to acoustic lament and back again.
Parker returned to solitude, and the thoughts that can only gestate from that condition, with album number three, A Shot and a Beer. Again every note played or sung is his and his alone. It is a small collection of acoustic songs born from being a witness to all things bucolic.
Sweet Life is the countervailing reaction to something small and intimate. Ehrbar and J. Parker return here to help weave a tapestry of melodically epic pop. Parker’s transcendent falsetto opens the record, and things just get better from there.
Songs in a Northern Key is the final release of Parker’s under the Varnaline mantle. Vermont is the setting here, and some of his most memorable songs emerge from the bitter cold and blackness of the long nights. Layered guitars growl and drums echo behind the melodic songs at times, and yet there is a prettiness to the tunes here that can’t be shunned.
It would be over three years before Parker released new music again. This time the mask is in drawer and the Varnaline name retired. Tell it to the Dust was released under his own name. The title track is a chronicle of his creative life to that point and reveals affirmations that can only be garnered from experience.
There was so much great music recorded during the Tell it to the Dust sessions, that a second disc, The Wounded Astronaut, was released to complete the story. Appearing only six months after the release of the last set, the wait wasn’t long and the sheer scope of both collections united is stunning.
Anders Parker was originally released on Halloween, 2006. No trick (just treat) here. There is a real sense of culmination in this live studio recording with a band that features stellar players like Ken Coomer, Kirk Swan, Eric Heywood, and Jen Condos. It’s a round trip ticket. Point A to point B with the compass point in the center.
And then the strands break apart into two distinct pieces in Skyscraper Crow. A double album with two distinct personalities, Skyscraper––all computer generated noises––and Crow––acoustic folk cut live. The dichotomy is fully expressed. Love/Hate. Despair/Joy.
Cross Latitudes is ten tracks of ambient guitar jams that further promulgates the theme of two. Parker splits the country in half by recording five in California, and five in Vermont––the former an improvisational sleight of hand, and the later delivered through painstaking craft.
Along the way, there were fellow travelers: Anders teamed up with Jay Farrar for Gob Iron. Will Johnson and Jim James joined those two for the New Multitudes project, which brought the archived lyrics of Woody Guthrie to life. He finally got an opportunity to join longtime ally, Kendall Meade, in creating Anders and Kendall, an ode to their friendship sung through eleven duets. He was also a member of Space Needle, as well as aiding and abetting a long list of colleagues and friends in their efforts.
This June will see the release of There’s a Blue Bird in my Heart on the label Recorded and Freed. Again, there is exploration coming, but the filaments have fused; the strands have untwisted and revel in the lush sounds of soaring guitars and plaintive vocal. Well worth the wait, though relieved that it has finally ended.
Skyscraper Crow album bio
ANDERS PARKER is a singer/songwriter from Burlington, VT. Fourteen years into his career, Bladen County Records is proud to announce the release of his twelfth album – the double concept LP Skyscraper Crow. The Crow portion of the set is unadorned acoustic folk simplicity at it’s finest, and Skyscraper is totally computer generated laptop pop. While the albums are, at least aesthetically, diametrically opposed, both remain distinctly the work of Parker.
In 2008 ANDERS PARKER moved to Burlington, VT after a number of years in New York City. Once in Vermont, he relegated himself to a subterranean basement to finish work on a series of four disparate albums. These records stretch to the four different directions of his artistic compass – one acoustic folk, another electronic pop, a third consisting of improv guitar instrumental noise-scapes and a rock band barn burner for the last of the quartet.
Skyscraper Crow is the first installment from the project with the others to follow suit shortly hereafter. “Skyscraper is my love/hate letter to New York and my life there,” says PARKER. “I would create a drum beat and lay down a chord structure in one sitting, then I’d ride the subway for as long as it took to write the lyrics. Then, my friend, Kendall Meade (Mascott), came over and sang background vocals on most of Skyscraper.”
PARKER wrote Crow at the end of 2008 in Burlington after he had finished Skyscraper. “With Crow, I was trying to create small little worlds with each song. I had just moved into my new home on a block surrounded in every direction by squawking crows. The house has a perfect basement for recording, one where you can watch dust float in intense rays of dream light,” recollects PARKER.
Before recording under his own name, PARKER performed in the indy-rock/alt-country act Varnaline and played in the space-rock band Space Needle. PARKER’s career has seen him tour with the likes of Bob Mould, Son Volt, Sparklehorse, and The Verses, as well as Lollapallooza 1997. In 2006, ANDERS released an album that he recorded with Son Volt and Uncle Tupelo founder, Jay Farrar, under the name Gob Iron. Entitled Death Songs for the Living, the record is a series of folk songs reinterpreted by the duo.
Matt Brown, founder of Bladen County Records and longtime friend of PARKER, describes his relationship with the singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, “I lived with ANDERS for a while. We odd coupled. I’d drink tequila and rant, he’d drink whiskey and smolder. We both got jobs at a little bar called the Stingray. He’s a Northerner and a big guy with a dark presence who likes to drink alone. If a Southerner (like myself) drinks alone, it means he’s probably going to fight. I imagined ANDERS had all the fight he could handle inside of himself; I’d heard right from his first album Man of Sin. I could tell he cared, and that it confounded him.”
ANDERS said goodbye to the southern way of life, packed up his life, leashed his one-eyed dog, Oly, and headed north. Bigger cities, icier villages – it’s been a constant theme in his songs and a better place for the first generation Swedish-American who grew up on a farm in upstate New York listening to The Beatles, Husker Du, The Replacements and Bob Dylan.
ANDERS PARKER takes up more room and sound onstage than one of those steel cage spheres that dudes ride motorcycles in at circuses. Some of Anders songs remind me of Lady Ashley from The Sun Also Rises. Some remind me of Fuckhead from Jesus’ Son. Mostly I think of the midget’s mantra from Fire Walk With Me: “Give me all my pain and sorrow.” This fall, he will leave his Northeastern home and take his carnivalesque one-man show across the US in support of Skyscraper Crow.
Anders Parker Anders Parker (self-titled) album bio
October 31, 2006
Anders Parker has released five albums under the Varnaline name, two with Space Needle, two critically acclaimed solo releases (Tell it to the Dust & The Wounded Astronaut) and one soon-to-be-released collaboration with Jay Farrar-under the moniker Gob Iron. His new self-titled album will be released on Baryon Records on October 31, 2006. In his own words:
As a reaction to the long recording and self-producing process of my last two records, Tell It To The Dust and The Wounded Astronaut, I wanted this one to be fast, quick, live and immediate. I also wanted to throw a lot of it up in the air and see what happened… meaning: I didn’t want to make all of the musical decisions myself.
Originally I conceived this record as a solo record — me singing and playing acoustic guitar or piano with no overdubs. But as I was writing these songs I realized that I didn’t want to record them alone. So, I needed a band and a place to record….
My first plan to assemble a band on the East Coast and record in New York City fell through, prompting a last minute change of coasts. I called up my friend Adam Lasus, who co-produced the second Varnaline and Space Needle records (as well as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Clem Snide and Helium, among many others) and who had just relocated his Brooklyn-based Fireproof Studio to a converted pool house in Los Angeles, California. Knowing The Band recorded their second, self-titled record at Sammy Davis Jr’s pool house in LA…well, already I had good vibes about heading west.
The band came together surprisingly well: Ken Coomer (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo) flew out from Nashville to play drums. Eric Heywood (Son Volt, Jayhawks, Richard Buckner) played pedal steel. He recommended bass player Jennifer Condos (Joe Henry, Stevie Nicks, Warren Zevon) whom I had never met but felt like I had known for years after a couple of days. And Adam Lasus got Kirk Swan (Dumptruck founder, Steve Wynn band) to play electric guitar.
All of the songs on the record were played, sung and recorded live in three days. No one had heard the songs prior to the sessions. I would play the songs for the band, usually outside at the table in front of the studio, and then we would go in and track the tune. Most songs were captured on the 1st or 2nd take. Once the basics were finished a few overdubs were in order. Sally Timms happened to be in town on tour with her Mekons band-mate John Langford so I managed to get her to come by and sing on the opening track, “Circle Same.” Kristin Mooney brought a bottle of red wine and sang on a few tunes, “Dear Sara,” “Missing” and “Belated.” Phil Hurley (Gigolo Aunts) played a neat little solo on “Airport Road” and sang on a few things too. And in a little flurry of East Coast recording, Kendall Meade (Mascott) sang on “Winter Coat” and Mark Spencer (Blood Oranges, Freedy Johnston, Lisa Loeb) played piano and moog.
I’ve made a few records now under many different conditions: some all by myself on a 4-track, a few with sizeable budgets and a band in big studios and a couple that spanned those two worlds. What I hoped to capture on this new album was simply this: the sound of a band playing these songs live in a room. In some ways it is still an acoustic record, but no longer a solo one. Even with everyone’s amazing contributions, it remains simple, clear and uncluttered. In that spirit, I decided on the eponymous title.
Here are a few thoughts on the songs:
Circle Same: Written in Vermont a few weeks before Hurricane Katrina. I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant and was about to start tinkering with the lyrics but then the storm came and I figured it was best to leave it as written. Not because it’s about a hurricane, but because it seemed to make more sense after the storm hit. Perhaps about the cycles of life, the unchanging-ness of change. One of the few instructions that I gave the band was that everyone should play their own loop on this song. Make your circle and go.
Missing: Also written in Vermont, this time in the dead of winter. For a fellow traveler.
Oh, Monkeywrench: Last song written. Penned in a piano rehearsal room at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Finally joined the iPod/laptop generation and got to thinking about how great these toys are but how obtrusive and sometimes distracting they can be too. Then expanded the thought into idea of how we are ruining the world around us and surrendering to technology. I’m not a Luddite, but I’m down with Edward Abbey.
Dear Sara: Can’t really remember where I wrote this. I think I started it on the road sometime last year. Concerning conversations with a friend about mortality, darkness, choices, change, death and dogs.
Airport Road: There’s one everywhere, but there’s a specific one near a place where I go sometimes that means I’m getting close to where I want to be. And there’s something about the light and sounds of an airport and the smell of airplane fuel that I’ve always liked.
Under Wide Unbroken Skies: For travelers and lost friends.
False Positive: Written in Durham, NC, after seeing yet another frustrating White House press briefing. The lies and twisting of the truth. It’s amazing what people will say and believe. There was a baseball player that was once described by the owner of his team as a “fat pussy toad”. Couldn’t help but think of that every time I saw Scott McClellan.
Belated: Also written in NC. I was sick as a dog and had a really high fever but somehow managed to sit at the piano and write this song. True story, for what it’s worth. A birthday present for a birthday missed.
Proof: Always looking for proof of something. Sometimes you gotta have faith, other times proof.
Pajarito: Concerning a bull that brought the bullfight to the people.
Winter Coat: About the barren winter landscape of the northern wilds. With apologies to Neil Young, Paul Westerberg and Joni Mitchell, all of whom I borrowed lyrical snippets from for this one.
Pink Clouds: Tried to capture a conversation I had many years ago right at the last light of the day concerning the fleeting moments of life.
Anders Parker Tell it to the Dust album bio
Anders Parker is a modest man who lives in Brooklyn, NY and works as a musician. People who are into American songwriters know him as the frontman of Varnaline. That band enjoyed the support of so many enthusiastic reviews and high-profile fans (most recently Steve Earle, who released the last Varnaline record on his own boutique label E-Squared/Artemis) that it became a widely held consensus thaSt they were underrated. Which was impossible, though not the fault of the listening public, who actually really do have a bit of an ear, sort of.
Parker grew up on an old farm in New York’s Hudson Valley, amid apple orchards, strip malls, and liberal arts colleges, listening to The Beatles, Bob Dylan and ABBA. Later, his interest flowed to R.E.M., The Replacements, Husker Du, The Smiths, etc… “Anyone who can write a song,” as he once put it, had a fan in Anders Parker.
During his twenties, he moved to Portland, OR, bought a four-track and entered the lofty ranks of real-deal troubadours. 1996′s Man of Sin (an Anders Parker solo album released under the name Varnaline) introduced Parker’s knack for new chord structures that feel lived in, and lyrics that delicately illustrate our world’s myriad variations on the sadly beautiful and beautifully sad.
The next year Varnaline became a band, as Anders’ brother John Parker got on board as bassist. Drummer Jud Ehrbar, an old friend of both Parkers, joined on the condition that Anders help out with Ehrbar’s other band, Space Needle. 1997 saw the release of Varnaline’s self-titled sophomore effort, the acclaimed second Space Needle album The Moray Eels Eat the Space Needle and the acoustic Varnaline EP A Shot and a Beer. The new trio came off surprisingly low-slung and heavy. They made Parker’s sturdy songs so rugged you could leave them in your pocket for a few days, run them through the laundry and in the morning they’d work just the same. Varnaline was compared to Crazy Horse and the Minutemen. They toured with Metallica that summer.
And they earned a following in the alt-country scene. This was probably due more to Varnaline’s old-fashioned musical values (e.g., songs that work) than their sideburns. By 1998′s Sweet Life, the band was proving impossible to categorize, except by saying, as many did, Damn this Anders Parker guy can write a song. Sweet Life captured Varnaline’s brilliance the way glimmering ice can capture a tree. Production became as much a part of Parker’s vision as his words and melodies. The characters he sang through started conveying poignancy beyond their own comprehension.
Around the turn of the century, the label that released the first three Varnaline albums folded, and the band’s rhythm section executed a graceful bow to the pull of career and family. Anders, now relocated in North Carolina, signed to E-Squared/Artemis Records, but, unlike his labelmate Kurupt, continued to work with his former crewmates. Nonetheless, 2001′s Songs In a Northern Key was pretty much an Anders Parker solo record released as a Varnaline record. Sprawling and varied, somber and gorgeous, it earned a crop of praise for all that and, of course, its songwriting.
No Depression gave it a rave, calling it “cinematic in its imagery and intimate in its feel.” Magnet honored it with a spot on its year-end list of the 20 best albums of 2001. London’s Daily Mail called it “a minor masterpiece.”
In making his new album, Tell it to the Dust, Parker mastered the semi-solo approach of Songs In a Northern Key. Or maybe the first official Anders Parker album is better than the others because he had so much time. Take a guy who writes countless great songs every year and give him three years…you don’t need an abacus to calculate what’s coming.
The project was initiated with monies received upon voluntary release from Artemis (a year was long enough to wait for the chance to record a follow-up) as well as contributions from his management company, Undertow and donated studio time from friends and believers. Parker reunited with key collaborator Ehrbar in an old Brooklyn firehouse. The two laid down 22 songs in four days.
The initial recording was by producer/engineer Adam “Red” Lasus (whose credits include work with Helium and Clem Snide, in addition to Space Needle and Varnaline). Then, Anders took it on the road, recording in sundry settings with friends one at a time, including Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt), Bo Taylor (Motocaster, Dish, Bandway), Kendall Meade (Mascott), Greg Elkins (Vanilla Trainwreck), Joan Wasser (Dambuilders, Those Bastard Souls) and John Parker (Varnaline). John Agnello, (whose credits include Varnaline’s “Sweet Life” as well as work with Dinosaur Jr. and Mark Lanegan) mixed the songs and then stepped up to offer the final piece of the puzzle by agreeing to release the album on his record label, Baryon Records.
It worked. Tell it to the Dust will move and please all who listen to it. Its release is a major story. Consider it the performing songwriter’s equivalent of getting shot nine times in a botched drug deal and living to brag about it. For people who like songs, big news.