“You’re a little bi-polar,” he tells her, “and you get on my ass about drinking my liquor and smoking too much grass.”
She parries. “You know, you’re no Johnny Cash.”
“Woman, what’d you say?”
“I said, you ain’t the Man in Black, and I won’t be treated this way.”
But there is a wry, knowing edge in each of their voices that melts into affection by the end of their argument.
This argument is the third track, “Crazy”, from the Parlor Soldiers’ album When the Dust Settles, and showcases the essence of what makes their songs really work (and if you click up there, you can download “Crazy” for free). Backed by simple, slim but solid Americana-based arrangements, they are playful without coming off as if they are trying to hard to show how clever they are, and they are real without being precious. And their voices are so handsome that you want to date them both.
Forming in Fredericksburg, Virginia, after Alex Culbreth asked Karen Jonas to sing at some gigs with him, the two, each who had already established themselves as solo artists, added upright bass (played by Dan Dutton) to the mix and began writing and playing as the Parlor Soldiers.
“We spent several months coming up with different band names but none of them seemed to fit our style of music,” Culbreth told me. “We came up with The Parlor Soldiers after coming across a list of Civil War terms. It was a derogatory term meaning a soldier who was unfit for war, a poseur, or not a true soldier. We thought that it sounded good, liked the old-timey Civil War connection, and liked the fact that it was an insult.”
When the Dust Settles, which I’ve fallen a little more in love with at each listen, covers themes from giving an abuser his just desserts to being a woman with ramblin’ on her mind to being a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde duo driven to desperate ends by the economy and circumstance, with the singing, playing and songwriting shared evenly by Jonas and Culbreth. And the balance between those three elements is nearly perfect, never sacrificing their enticing musicality to showcase their smart lyrics, never working their chosen genre up into caricature and always singing strong and true.
And each time I listen to When the Dust Settles I want to hear those songs played live. You will, too, so take note of these tour dates.
Kybecca Wine Bar
The Griffin Bookshop
Northside Social Cafe & Wine Bar
New York, NY
Solly’s U Street Tavern
Horseshoes and Hand Grenades
Hill Country Barbeque Market
The Corner Store
Ashland Coffee & Tea
Picker’s Supply Concert Hall