- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2004

Graham Parker

Your Country

Bloodshot Records

Pub-rock legend Graham Parker takes Napoleon’s put-down of England — a vulgar “nation of shopkeepers” — and wears it with pride on “Your Country,” a love letter to American country and roots music.

“You can laugh at my hair / the clothes I wear,” he sings from the perspective of an immigrant Englishman. But when Mr. Parker plays “insurgent country” music — to use Bloodshot Record’s self-description — none of us Yanks will be laughing.

Singing in a comfortable Bob Dylan croak, even duetting with Lucinda Williams on “Cruel Lips,” Mr. Parker comes across as a sincere student of Americana. He chooses his sources well: “Fairgrounds” is an obvious homage to Bruce Springsteen’s “No Surrender,” while “Sugaree” is an inspired take on the Grateful Dead original.

Graham Parker also does Graham Parker well, revamping his own “Crawling From the Wreckage” into a jumping rockabilly.

Sounding better on ballads such as “Things I’ve Never Said,” he veers into cartoon country on “Tornado Alley,” a shallow look at the grotesques of Middle America that abandons Mr. Parker’s normally compassionate outlook and eye for real human detail.

Contrast that with “Almost Thanksgiving Day,” a poignant little slice-of-life song about an aging empty-nest couple pining for the holiday season and the company of family.

Pretty impressive, coming as it does from a once-impetuous man of punk.

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