The new album is easily his most enticing in 20 years. Far from sounding like a Johnny-come-lately, Parker settles right in with an effort that shifts seamlessly from rambling, Dylan-esque country-folk ("Queen of Compromise") to rustic, harmonica-fueled blues-shuffle ("The Rest Is History") to loping, tear-in-the-beer country on "Cruel Lips," (featuring a duet with Lucinda Williams). The writing is typically sharp and incisive, including a pair of fantastic character sketches — "Anything for a Laugh," which follows a second-rate comic on the road as he wonders if his comedy is "just a shield in front of me," and the amusing "Tornado Alley," where a cuckolded lover happily salutes the twister that took his trailer park sweetie away. More than a treat for diehards, it’s a terrific entrée into Parker’s oeuvre, a start-to-finish triumph that’s a veritable box of chocolates to lapsed fans.
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