To say that Parson James
flies under the radar is an understatement. While the Charleston, South Carolina native has certainly had plenty of acclaim for some of his work, including "Stole the Show" and "Sad Song", the quality of his newest release today, "Only You", still comes as a surprise.
Perhaps it's James' vocal style, smooth and fluid with no flair for the eccentric, that makes him seem so unassuming. Maybe it's the medley of genres and influences that he combines, preventing you from pigeonholing him into one, easy to identify genre. Whatever it is, Parson James' exterior belies an incredible spirit beneath it. Just like you need to sip a fine spirit instead of just chugging it, you need to give "Only You" multiple, attentive listens to truly appreciate everything that was put into it.
Unlike many singer-songwriters these days, James doesn't try to bowl you over with pure vocal power. Instead, "Only You" invites you in with Parson's peanut-butter-smooth, R&B-inspired voice that displays a tremendous range and power for someone who sounds like he's not even trying. It's incredible to listen to James swing between subdued and intimate lows and impassioned highs, all the grace of a man who's been here before, and knows that you can't force such sublimeness onto a listener, but rather, that you must bring them in gently, guiding them every step of the way.
Which is what makes "Only You" so unique. While it's a masterclass that other singer-songwriters should be taking notes of, it is not just confined to that one discipline. There's the pop and R&B-influenced singer-songwriter, for sure, but he's backed by a wealth of other sonic influences. You can hear a little modern country in the dramatic strings, there's funky, syncopated piano keys interspersed to add a bit of tension, and a hymnal harmony, reminiscent of a Sunday's church choir pit, accentuating his chorus on the outro.
All these elements combine to form a track that is layered, rich and easily listenable. If you've slept on Parson James up until this point, it's time to wake up, and "Only You" is a good place to start.