Henry Parker – Silent Spring

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 5/5

As someone who, to quote the verse of the sleeve of Stephen Stills first album ‘grew up on strings’, who was listening to the musicians who came out of the 60s clubs and folk revival while still in shorts, it is gratifying to hear the resurgence of players tapping into that mix of freewheeling spirit and dexterity. Henry Parker spent his teenage years in Heavy Metal bands and his twenties self releasing EPs and live CDs. Silent Spring his debut album brims with the spirit of traditional, progressive and psychedelic music that infused the Folk Rock scene of the early 70s. Not that I think that Henry is a revivalist, the singer songwriter guitarist equivalent of the bowler hatred trad jazz musician. For me he is percolating his ideas through his influences, starting from where they were and taking it on. He is spot on with his details, the inner shot of him nods to Nick Drake’s Five Leaves shot and John Renbourn’s debut. The drawn sleeve images reference the illustrative nature of gatefold LP sleeves for Comus, The Trees and a host of other heavy Folk Psych bands. Just the lettering is more contemporary.

The music is a delight as Parker, Theo Travis, Augustin Bousfield,  Brendan Bache, and David Crick more, with an array of guitars, percussion, flutes, double bass, 70s fender Rhodes and other exotic instruments really deliver. The guitar and the flute lines that follow the melody on “New Mantras” have a freewheeling early 70s John Martyn or Traffic feel. Theo Travis, one time member of Gong, Soft Machine and accomplished jazz musician is clearly in pastoral folk Prog mode. “Silent Spring” has the same languid guitar and jazzy percussion, the whole thing shimmers like Tim Buckley, with Henry’s electric guitar flourishes sounding very Blue Afternoon. The lyrics, inspired by Rachel Carson’s chilling book lament the decline in birds and bird song. “False Guidance” and “Days In A Dream” feature some wonderfully spry and fleet fingered guitar and fine vocals. “Sylvie” is a traditional song I will forever associate with Pentangle and Bert Jansch, but Parker’s wonderfully louche drawl suggests Michael Chapman fronting the Folk Jazz Fusion band. “Door Walk Blues” with its upbeat confident vocal and its folk blues guitar sounds in spirit like something off a Davy Graham album, the eastern sounding flourishes, the Terry Cox like percussion. It’s words marking the end of Henry’s metal band days. “Marbled Wren” is a sensitively played instrumental, played with feeling and space around the picked notes. Fans of fingerpicked guitarists like Jansch, Chapman, Renbourn will find themselves going back around this one a few times. The piece is inspired by a walk to work along the Leeds Liverpool canal. Titled for a canal boat he saw, we should be grateful he didn’t pass boaty mcboat face. On “Prospect Of Wealth” Parker’s guitar has that rolling slap rhythm and timing that John Martyn did so well. Parker’s voice, his guitar and the ripples of flute together create a great feel. Henry himself says the heavy atmosphere of the songs can be traced back to his early diet of Ozzy’s Sabbath and Soundgarden, I think its to his credit that his bright uplifting playing can carry the issues and ideas he songs explore without becoming cloying or down. “Willie Of Winsbury” is another song I will forever link with Pentangle and John Renbourn, but Henry’s very lyrical electric guitar intro and the rolling beat create an entirely different atmosphere. When finally the melody appears it is as a medieval but jazzy sounding lead guitar line that is quite beautiful and one of the highlights of the album. The piece’s five minutes pass in a moment and you are left decidedly wanting more. This one is highly recommended.

Choice Track: “Days in a Dream” (NSV 485)