By Mike O’Cull
Award-winning blues guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Peter Parcek demonstrates the rare ability to get inside the souls of his songs and his listeners on his new record Mississippi Suitcase. The album drops September 4th, 2020 on Lightnin’ Records and features Parcek plying his trade alongside heavyweight guests including North Mississippi Allstars’ Luther Dickinson, Muscle Shoals organist Spooner Oldham, and harmonica legend Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson). Parcek is a virtuoso in the primordial sense and has much more in common with the voodoo blues of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker than the technical blues/rock of SRV and Joe Bonamassa. The record vibes like a night in a haunted roadhouse instead of a stadium set and Parcek taps into that part of the blues that might actually put your mortal soul in danger.
Parcek uses Mississippi Suitcase to take his fans on a vision quest through the eternal, timeless humanity that all blues music runs on. He’s steeped in the traditions of the genre but is never bound by them. Rather, he uses them as launching pads to create his own take on things that feel deep, emotional, and spiritual. His guitar work is powerfully spare and direct and his vocals drip with the despair of someone waiting at life’s crossroads to make a deal. The record isn’t a typical houserocking experience. It’s more dark and introspective and allows Parcek to carve out his own niche in an already crowded playing field.
From the opening notes of the first cut “The World Is Upside Down,” Parcek is gripping and apocalyptic. The track is a lament for modern times that mourns the days we’re currently living and Parcek wonders out loud “Is this the Second Coming or just some kind of sign?” His voice and guitar express the hellhound-on-my-trail terror that Robert Johnson knew firsthand and he instantly captures your complete attention. The song is heavy and brilliant and Parcek hits it with everything he’s got.
Up next is the graveyard swamp of “Everybody Oughta Make A Change.” Parcek slows things down this time but gets much heavier conceptually. The song has existential and religious overtones that speak to the unfortunate knowledge that the end is on its way. The way he sings “Everybody oughta make a change because, sooner or later, you’re going down in the lonesome ground” is absolutely chilling and hits the same level of fearful acceptance as John Lee Hooker’s take on “Decoration Day.” When people talk about the blues being the Truth, songs like this are the ones they’re talking about.
“Beyond Here Lies Nothin’” is another ghostly blues that showcases Parcek’s soaring, minor key slide guitar playing. He has an excellent touch on it and explores a vocabulary that’s cliche-free. The title track, “Mississippi Suitcase (Slight Return)” is a mid-tempo divorce song of the highest order. Full of snarling lyrics and guitars, it’s one of the album’s most vital moments and delivers the bad news in no uncertain terms. Spooner Oldham’s organ work is especially tasty here and the band grooves beneath him flawlessly.
The album’s most ambitious and unexpected surprise is Parcek’s instrumental version of the Beatle classic “Eleanor Rigby.” It adds a rock guitar element to the record but also connects emotionally to everything else on the record. Parcek is tasteful, melodic, and spellbinding and takes us all to school. Every second of Mississippi Suitcase contains this same level of understated greatness and deserves a chance to be permanently installed in your musical consciousness. Peter Parcek has quietly mastered every nuance of the blues and will touch the innermost part of your being. Listen to this record daily for at least a year.
Peter Parcek Online