Graham Parker

Don't Tell Columbus

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Depending on which album you get from Graham Parker these days, he's either set on reminding us that he's still capable of serving up the sort of lean and feisty rock & roll that made him a cult hero years ago, or demonstrating that he's matured into a pithy and very gifted singer/songwriter with the passage of time. 2007's Don't Tell Columbus falls into the latter category (and follows his 2005 studio set Songs of No Consequence, which happened to fit into the former scenario), and while there are several examples of his acerbic side on display (most notably "England's Latest Clown," which concerns someone quite a bit like Pete Doherty, and "Stick to the Plan," a witty but poison-penned meditation on George W. Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina), Parker's more gentle side dominates Don't Tell Columbus, and it serves him well on these tunes. The title cut is a cautious celebration of his adopted home in the guise of a road story, "The Other Side of the Reservoir" and "Suspension Bridge" are richly detailed slice-of-life stories, "Love of Delusion" is an intelligent but uncompromising story of a relationship gone sour, and "Somebody Saved Me" is an equally honest story from the other side of the coin. While Parker doesn't rock especially hard here, the arrangements are taut, concise and full-bodied even when the electric guitars fade into the backdrop, and Parker handles the lion's share of the guitar work himself with an easy confidence, while Mike Gent shines on drums and Ryan Barnum adds some well-placed keyboard textures that give the tunes welcome color and balance. If Don't Tell Columbus doesn't sound like it's markedly superior to such recent Graham Parker efforts as Your Country and Songs of No Consequence, those were both strong albums and so is this, and what impresses most at this stage of Parker's career is his consistency -- he's writing first-rate songs and putting them on record with heart, soul and conviction, and he hasn't sounded this reliably inspired since the mid-'80s. It's a fine thing he's still around.

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