An embodiment of emotion both personal and cultural, Colin Ray’s lead vocal is bluegrass passion personified in “A Memory of You,” a cornerstone track of Jeff Parker & Company’s new record Time Has Made a Change, but without the harmony that Ray creates with Parker and Rickey Wasson, I don’t know that this song would be any more of a hit than the other tracks on the album are. Time Has Made a Change is a bluegrass exhibition centered almost exclusively on harmonies reminiscent of an ocean tidal wave, and if you know anything about the musicians responsible for its creation, you can bet that it’s got a lot to offer listeners of all ages and backgrounds.
The fiddle parts in “Southern Wind,” “Dixieland or Bust,” “Time Has Made a Change in Me” and “Carolina Line” (all of which are performed by Ronnie Stewart except for “Carolina Line,” which is performed by Dan Boner) demand a reaction out of us even more often than the verses do, and although the mix is layered to divide our attention between all of the elements in the songs, they steal a lot of the spotlight in these particular tracks. At once soothing and searing when it counts the most, the fiddle-led harmonies are much more than an embellishment on the melodies from the mandolin and guitar; they’re essentially a staple of this record’s principal charm.
Bassist Andy Brown contributes some great tonality to the big picture, and though some of his lines are a bit more prominent than they need to be (primarily in “He Guides My Life,” “Wrong” and “A Memory of You”), they never even come close to the realm of overindulgence. Without the weightiness of the low-end parts in Time Has Made a Change, you could definitely make the argument that the grooves wouldn’t swing nearly as much as they ultimately do here, and that alone would negatively change the personality of these songs and soften their bluegrass aesthetic tremendously.
I would have started off the tracklist with “Carolina Line” and “Time Has Made a Change in Me” were I had been put in charge of the production, but only to make the flow of the songs a little better than it already is. For the most part, Jeff Parker & Company sound really relaxed and unrushed in all of this material, and in comparison to the past four records we’ve seen from the outfit, it’s probably one of the more forward-thinking and experimental in terms of construction, which isn’t all that common a combination anymore.
You don’t have to be a bluegrass fanatic to appreciate what Jeff Parker & Company are doing for their fans in Time Has Made a Change, but for listeners who live for a good Kentucky rhythm, this is an awesome addition to an otherwise hit or miss year for the genre as a whole. I know that it won’t be the last record that I pick up from the band, and after you give it a peek for yourself, I have a feeling you’re going to be inclined to share my sentiments.