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Parker Millsap and Michael Rose are essentially a force of nature. To compare them to any person, place, or thing is redundant. They are like nothing in the music market and their audience is probably clapping with one hand with that fat naked Buddha leading the devotees’ applause. Comparison is futile. Still, we strive to label that we may pass information on to our peers.
As a duo they are beyond complete, covering the dynamic spectrum with a blanket of supernatural power and lyrical intent. They project more highs and lows than a bus load of manic-depressive divas on the path to temptation. The sound can go from a rant to a rose in a manner that seems so obvious and as new as a revelation, as perpetual as daybreak, as compelling as that new baby smell. Add a hard or the edge of a fiddle in the middle and their music is a foundation for those who accompany to drift into eternal possibilities.
Postmodern implies a paradox and in it’s essential nature becomes the only word that describes the act justly. If modern is the cutting edge, how can something be post? What can possibly come after it?
This mystery manifests itself in the listening experience. Millsap spans the chronology from the growls of the shaman to the domain of the poet, from the bleak pinnacle of destitution to the mysticism of perpetual bliss and all in the span of a song, maybe even a phrase. Rose rises and falls with his partner like a wing man in serious combat, ever-present in the space behind the youthful front man, always filling the gaps with a meter that gives Millsap the authority to take the piece to the limit, and take it out he does.
The voice is the primary definition of commitment. There is no almost in his expression. If he says, “Little Jack Horner sat in the corner” the listener knows without reservation that Horner is in the corner infinitely trapped and never to be released except by an additional lyric. Was there ever any doubt? There is no confetti and blowhole smoke in this show; it is so real it makes you scared. The audience sits, washed in the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion, praying that the lyric won’t get personal, steal their wills and make them sit in the corner ad infinitum.
All metaphysical banter aside, the instrumentals are compelling, the rhythm is emasculate, the vocal is commanding, and the songwriting can impose itself on your subconscious at multiple image levels, just like literature. All of these amazing elements of the show, however, are overwhelmed by the synergy of the performance. The final product is a geometric exponent of the individual parts and that is what makes it high art. That is, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Try this experiment if you don’t believe me. Take a man child, teach him to fingerpick and play a rack harp, suggest he write some tunes and find him a doghouse bassman with timing. Add water, shake, rattle and roll, then pour it on the stage at your local live-in-a-dive joint. If you did this a thousand times you would never get what Millsap and Rose deliver every time. The postmodern magic they project is spinning the clouds in a frantic frenzy, or maybe it’s a slow wise old glacier crushing mountains in its assault, only to have its heart warmed by the caress of a loving desert. One thing is certain: the final product is greater than the separate elements and the real reward goes to the listener, who is drawn to the heart of the matter to accept the gift they give so freely. I wouldn’t miss this one if I were you, and I am.