Thu, Dec 12, 2013 - Page 11 News List

CD reviews

By Jon Pareles and Jon Caramanica  /  NY Times News Service

— Jon Pareles, NY Times News Service

Feels Like Carolina, by Parmalee

Country music doesn’t move in intense tidal waves but in glacial shifts, and even then, the change can be painful. The last few years have seen a surge in male-female harmony among the genre’s top acts — Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Thompson Square, the Band Perry — but in the last year, the duo Florida Georgia Line has almost single-handedly restored male harmony to the country charts. It’s been yeoman’s work.

Into that moderately welcoming environment arrives Parmalee, a long-running band only now peeking out from obscurity thanks to its hit Carolina, a soothing slow burn of a love song about leaving and sadness, from its first widely distributed album, Feels Like Carolina.

On this deeply amiable album, the frontman Matt Thomas has a strong voice but not a tough one, which makes his rowdy numbers, like Musta Had a Good Time, tolerable: “All that’s left in the fire pit is one of my lawn chairs/and a piece of siding off my barn.” (The musical muscle is maybe not such a surprise for a band that once collaborated with Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue.) In fact, much of this album is given over to wistful songs about misbehavior — Back in the Day, Move, I’ll Bring the Music — that don’t register as seedy thanks to Thomas’ comforting vocals and the harmonies delivered by the bass player Barry Knox and the guitar player Josh McSwain. (The band also includes Scott Thomas, Matt’s brother, on drums.)

But while Parmalee makes misbehavior sound cuddly, it’s especially well equipped for regret. That’s what animates not only Carolina, but also the album closer Another Day Gone, which opens with Matt Thomas singing ruefully, “I screwed up seven summers in one afternoon gone wrong,” and only gets more bruised from there.

— Jon Caramanica, NY Times News Service

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