In a carefree swing that is as inviting as the vocal harmony soon to shadow its start is, gorgeous strings come pouring through our speakers in a deluge of melodicism in “Carolina Line,” one of ten songs comprising Time Has Made a Change, the new record from Jeff Parker & Company. “Carolina Line” is probably one of the more richly tuneful tracks that the second half of Time Has Made a Change has to offer, but it’s far from the only gem that I would recommend examining in this latest release from the critically acclaimed bluegrass syndicate. Jeff Parker & Company live up to their impressive reputation in this jam-packed bluegrass affair, which I would rank as one of the better albums of its kind to see widespread release this fall.
Though all of the material on Time Has Made a Change has a fine studio polish – with certain songs, such as “You Can’t Break My Heart,” “Time Has Made a Change in Me” and “Dixieland or Bust,” standing out as among the more radio-ready of the group – there’s nothing here that comes across to me as being overly-varnished. There’s a sharp resonance to the melody of the strings (and in particular Ronnie Stewart’s fiddle part) in “He Guides My Life” which stings with a raw emotionality that could never be replicated through production wizardry, while the harmonies in “While Endless Ages Roll” bear a certain intimacy not typically found outside of a small-scale live performance. If attention to detail is worth anything, Parker and Rickey Wasson, who together produced Time Has Made a Change, deserve as many accolades as any of the individual players in the album do.
“Southern Wind,” “What About You” and the galloping “Wrong” use instrumental textures to tell us a story as often as they do tonality and old fashioned poeticism, and I think that it is in these tracks that we’re really able to grasp just how much depth Jeff Parker & Company have when their chemistry is as hot as it is here. It takes a special kind of relationship between musicians to express something through the pained harmony of a mandolin, guitar and banjo with even more clarity than would ever be possible via mere lyrics alone, and in Time Has Made a Change, we’re given front-row seats to the fruits of such a relationship in ten terrific songs.
If you’ve never heard their work prior to now, or are simply unversed in the complexities of modern bluegrass bands, Jeff Parker & Company’s Time Has Made a Change is an excellent way of getting acquainted with this group and their amazing music. There’s an unadulterated love of traditional Americana, Appalachian folk and antique country crooning buried deep within the stitching of this LP, but make no mistake about it – this was designed with the diehard bluegrass connoisseur in mind, and that’s likely who its tracklist will satisfy the most. A must-listen for genre devotees and Parker fans of all stripes, I think that Time Has Made a Change has just the right mixture of heartfelt lyricism and heroic harmonies to qualify as another hit for this highly talented band.