Whole Nother World
Working nurse and blues belter Patti Parks hails from Buffalo, NY but made the trek to Baton Rouge, LA to record Whole Nother World, her second full-length release, at Kenny Neal’s studio. After hearing Parks at the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge, Kenny Neal signed her to his Booga Music label and produced, arranged, and performed on the album. Parks comes out blaring on the opening “I’m Trouble,” bringing it down to a more sensual groove for “More Than You’ll Ever Know.” On the breaks Neal plays soulful, tasty guitar, leading a conventional lineup of keyboards, rhythm guitar, bass, and drums.
It’s a bit of revelation to hear a female vocal on James Brown’s immortal “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” as this writer thinks of both the original and the lengthy Van Morrison live rendition of the tune. Parks delivers it with pure aching soul before her voice soars to remarkable heights toward the end while meantime as the band supplies tasteful restrained backing. Neal joins Patti for a vocal duet on the track “Baby Bee,” more in a country acoustic blues mode, while providing harmonica and guitar. “Stickin’ to My Guns” begins with blues harp into a shuffle and the Parks, Neal and band turn to simmering R&B/soul Candi-Staton like “Don’t Play Me Cheap” with Jason Parfait adding sharp sax lines to Parks’ pleading, searing vocal.
“I Can’t Think” is a pulsating Memphis-styled hip shaker, underpinned by horn and swirling organ and pounding piano. Parks, Neal and band close with Derrick Procell/Terry Abramson’s “No Means No” with Parks at her defiant declamatory best, punctuated by Brandon Adams’ electric piano.
Parks is also the creator of the “Nurs’ N Blues” education program, which she developed to help high risk children at drug rehab centers. The program is so impressive that it is funded by the Western New York Blues Foundation. The program provides blues music education for high-risk women’s groups in the Western New York community by using music in a therapeutic way to capture emotions and vent feelings. These groups help women start to heal while learning about women in blues history.
Patti Parks has found a way to match her love for blues with her life’s most meaningful work – one of the best examples of the well-worn cliché that music is a healing force. She is the embodiment of it.
- Jim Hynes
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