The Colored Parade is essentially the brainchild of singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Adkins. Having been in the critically eluded Mellow Down Easy and voted one of the top three songwriters in Nashville, this album finds Adkins blending a mélange of musical styles to create something refreshingly unique.
It would difficult to pigeonhole the music into any existing genre, it’s a melting pot of country, rock and blues, with shades of gospel, folk and electronica thrown for good measure. And let’s not forget the colourful flourishes of brass and strings. If pressed, I’d call it psych-country, but best the listener decide for themselves. The title, however, is most apt, coming from Plato’s old adage, “When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city will shake…”.
His original twist on country/blues could be compared to Beck’s Odelay though stylistically is much closer to the home-spun authentic charm of The Band (if maybe with a little acid slipped in their tea!). Adkins’ voice is reminiscent of a more guttural and ballsy Marc Bolan, though musically also brings to mind such disparate influences as Steve Earle, 60’s legends Love, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd (especially the very trippy finale Out Of The Ether) and the melding of different styles and instrumentation also made me think of Mercury Rev’s seminal Deserters’ Songs.
The joy of this album is that you never quite know where things are heading. Opener ‘Please, Be Kind’ wrong foots the listener halfway through via a dreamy pedal-steel section and the album takes many delightful left turns like this. The short-but-sweet second track ‘When The World’s Against Me’ is a nice contrast, which is notable for its mariachi-style brass arrangement.
Over the next few songs, Adkins also shows his skill as a lyricist with a deft Dylan-esque turn of phrase and gift for imagery (‘when the stars fall like confetti down the drain’ , ‘like a lightning bolt through a heart of stone’). The gritty ‘I’m Indestructible’ brought to mind the retro-blues of The Black Keys, currently huge, which shows the album has commercial potential.
Other highlights for me were ‘Too Much Out of Line’, which features a mellifluous guitar solo, and my personal favourite ‘Let’s Set Fire To This World’, a five-minute long call-to-arms against apathy in the face of worldly corruption. It must be said though that there’s no weak links at all here, and across thirteen songs, that’s quite an achievement.
While the subtleties and sophistication may go over the heads of the masses, this album will undoubtedly find its place in the hearts of the musically literate and eventually find a large following. Though it owes much to the past, its innovations and more modern touches place it very much as an album of the moment and you could easily see it topping critics’ lists at the end of the year. And the walls may well be shaking…
Verdict: 8.6 out of 10