Graham Parker

Carp Fishing on Valium: The Songs

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Graham Parker is best known as a singer and songwriter, but he's also a published novelist, and in 2000 he released a collection of short stories called Carp Fishing on Valium. Someone persuaded Parker to promote the book by doing a tour of rock clubs, performing a set of songs linked to the stories in the book, and Parker dutifully penned ten songs, each of which reflected the themes of a different story (he pulled the song "Soultime" from 1990's Human Soul to cover the 11th tale). Several of these songs appeared on Parker's subsequent album, but not all of them, and Carp Fishing on Valium: The Songs collects stripped-down acoustic versions of all 11 tunes from the CFOV song cycle. Parker never originally intended to release an album of this material, and this album is essentially a cleaned-up demo tape, recorded on a two-track cassette machine in the artist's bathroom, but despite its humble origins, this is quite enjoyable for fans of Parker's work. The performances sound off-the-cuff but also well-focused, and Parker's strong, emotive vocal style fills up the nooks and crannies of the songs while giving a sense of his characters, and his guitar work is simple but carries the melodies with confidence. Among the six songs here that haven't been released before, there aren't any lost masterworks, but they're well up to Parker's usual standard, which is nothing at all to sneeze at, and "Coins in My Pocket" and the title track certainly deserve wider exposure than they've received. While this is clearly meant for GP completists, the curious might also find this worth a listen. (By the way, talented graphic designers may want to contact Parker, since whoever did the artwork for this package, originally released by Parker's own label, is responsible for one of the ugliest covers ever foisted upon a musician of any note.)

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