David Roy Parsons' Time and Travel is a well-meaning endeavour
Time and Travel (Independent)
Lord knows that David Roy Parsons means well; the songs on this 10-track outing were inspired by, among other things, women living with HIV in Africa and the indigenous folks in the Guatemalan town of Xela. There’s also no denying that the Vancouver-via-Ottawa singer can play, as can his crack backing musicians, who prove themselves well-versed in topnotch hillbilly twang and harvest-moon folk.
To his credit, Parsons isn’t afraid to get jiggy with his songwriting, with “Joel and Elsie and the Ballad of the Giant Radish” working a bananas-and-blow Calypso vibe, and “Our Lady of Constant Sorrow” ambitiously (if misguidedly) attempting to fuse loping country and percolating ska. The weak link in all of this is his singing. Parsons’s press kit notes that he’s been likened to Leonard Cohen, but a flatter, less tuneful version of freak-folk oddity Jeffrey Lewis might be a more apt comparison, which isn’t exactly a raving endorsement. His shortcomings are most notable in the fiddle-swept, sunset-perfect Americana number “Single and Free”, which has him clumsily stepping all over his honey-voiced covocalist, Tamara Nile.
It also doesn’t help that Parsons’s attempts at humour sometimes come across as cornier than Hee Haw; sorry, but you’ve got to try harder than “When they say I’m bad/It’s like I’m Marquis de Sade.” It all adds up to a vibe best described as close to being onto something, but not quite there. Um, did we mention that he seems well-meaning?