GW Premiere: Robert Allen Parker's "Speed of Light”

Article Contributed by gratefulweb | Published on Monday, March 22, 2021

Robert Allen Parker is a Memphis-based guitarist / songwriter / producer & veteran of both the creative midtown Memphis music scene as well as the downtown Memphis blues scene. Today, hear his new track "Speed of Light" ahead of its release exclusively on Grateful Web. His guitar style beckons the long line of blues rock greats; Cream-era Clapton, Steve Marriott, Hendrix, Leslie West & Duane Allman. The Memphis Flyer call Parker's guitar playing "a perfect combination of growl and grit." Gary Clark, Jr. even complimented his guitar sound upon a recent visit to Beale Street. He has played with national and historic artists such as Rufus Thomas, Denise Lasalle, Luther & Cody Dickinson (of the North Mississippi Allstars), Valerie June, members of the Bar-Kays (Stax Records), and the Hi Rhythm Section (Hi Records).

Robert tells us, "As a guitarist, I have always been inspired by the open tuning acoustic sounds of Jimmy Page and Nick Drake. That was the mindset when writing the music for 'Speed Of Light.' I think the melody came out like Led Zeppelin 3 meets Big Star's first record, a real free flowing feel to it with the sitar lines & the atmospheric string section. Vocalist Kennard Farmer sings it as if Otis Redding were to do a psychedelic pop song. The lyrics deal with the idea that there is more to life than life itself; that an afterlife could be around the corner for all of us."

The River's Invitation--available 3/26/21 on Broken String Records--presents Robert's diversified musical vision. As a double vinyl album in the age of the short attention span, the album combines Robert's screaming guitar sound and razor-tight songcraft with an array of top-shelf Memphis singers such as Kennard Farmer, Candice Ivory, Chris Stephenson, and Lahna Deering. Displaying Robert's electric, acoustic, slide, and lead guitar prowess, the album flows like a river and takes you along to witness all of his explorations. The songs run the gamut from the psychedelic blues rock of "My Mind Comes From A High Place" and "Freedom Ain't A Mystery" to the raw electric gospel/blues of the traditional "Jesus Is On The Main Line" to the psychedelic soul duet "Some 1 2 Love" to the Eastern-tinged instrumentals "Indian Dream" and "The Raven's Call" to the dripping Memphis soul of "More Than Love" (featuring the legendary Hi Rhythm Section) to the expressive guitar workouts "Copperhead Boogie" and "Skydog" (Tribute To Duane Allman) to the acoustic soul ballad "Speed Of Light" to the no holds barred rocking "Wolf Man." The eclectic album is truly the best representation of Robert's complete, uncensored, and unfiltered musical mind. Fans of Memphis music, blues-rock, guitar-fueled music, and jambands are sure to find absolute listening pleasure in "The River's Invitation."

The River's Invitation is Robert's second album release. After playing as a sideman for a multitude of projects, he released his first solo album in 2018: From The Crossroads To Beale Street. That album features Parker's solid production and ferocious guitar work set against the soul-drenched vocals of Memphis blues/soul artists Preston Shannon, Earl "The Pearl" Banks, and Daddy Mack. Bassist Leroy Hodges & drummer Howard Grimes (both of the Hi Rhythm Section) performed on the album as well. Original compositions like the funky blues groove-driven "If The River Was Whiskey" (with Robert's stinging slide licks) and the Meters-esque instrumental stomp of "Black Magic Carpet Ride" mix with reworked renditions of tunes such as "Cross Roads Blues" (in Jimmy Reed shuffle-style) & "Rock Me Baby" (RL Burnside meets Mountain). Before completing this album, Parker flexed his directorial skills with the award-winning full-length documentary Meanwhile In Memphis: The Sound Of A Revolution (co-directed by Nan Hackman). The film, released in 2013, took 10 years to assemble and featured Memphis underground mavericks such as Jim Dickinson, Tav Falco, Big Star, the North Mississippi Allstars, the Grifters (Subpop Records), and garage-punk band the Oblivians.

"The long tradition of real Memphis guitar is safe and sound in the hands of Robert Allen Parker." -Luther Dickinson

"Robert's musicianship inspired me to pick up the guitar when I first started in Memphis." -Valerie June

"Parker's guitar transforms the spirits of the mistreated into the fine golden dust of blue notes falling from the Heavens." -Tav Falco / The Panther Burns