Oct 4, 2023–Every time it seems the modern music scene is abandoning “veteran” music-makers on the bandstands of history, a young artist comes along that rediscovers a classic genre, makes it her own, and shares it with a whole new generation.
Meet Miss Georgia Parker.
I stumbled across the Texas singer performing a the PCAA Concert in the Park at Fredericksburg’s MarktPlatz this summer. Wearing a cowboy hat and boots, the young songster fronted her band that featured steel, guitar, drums, upright bass, and fiddle. The fare was western swing.
Two months later, Parker will play at the Kerrville Folk Festival’s Welcome Home Fest. While only about 30 miles separates those two gigs, the audience, the occasion, and the stage are much farther apart. Yet Parker’s music bridges that gap. As Kerrville Folk Festival Director Deb Rouse likes to say, all music is folk music.
“I usually describe us as just being a dance band, definitely inspired by Bob Wills and the Texas playboys,” Parker said. “We started mostly doing western swing standards. But we’ve evolved as a group and have put in our own flair of different types of music, and different kinds of songs that we all just like. Which I think is in the spirit of the Bob Wills band–grabbing from whatever works, whatever gets people on the dance floor, and providing a fun time.”
For the Welcome Home Fest, Parker will lean more into a listening vibe, with what she calls her “stripped-down trio.”
Regardless of what type of music Parker is putting out, the fascinating observation for me is seeing how these classic genres of music keep getting rediscovered by new generations. When I was in college, I thought I had discovered this outre artist Arlo Guthrie, and was blasting his record in my room. When my mom waltzed in to singing along with “Anytime,” I realized I wasn’t that cool.
“I think every type of ‘old’ music has cycles of popularity,” Parker agreed. “Western swing is in a good place right now.”
Parker grew up listening to old jazz. But in one of those “circle of life moments,” her first encounter with western swing came when she was 18 working on the stage crew at the Festival.
“This guy came up to me, and it was like a drug deal,” she said with a laugh. “He was like, ‘Hey, have you ever heard this? Texas swing from the 40s? Try these.’ And he handed me these CDs of Bob Wills. I had never heard that before. I was like, ‘What is this?’”
But she listened and liked it. She started describing western swing as “jazz about cows.”
“I realized the lyrics are fun and light hearted, and it feels like jazz, and sometimes it feels like country music. I started sharing it with everyone in my music community. I became that same guy, saying, ‘Here, try these.’”
Parker is having fun bringing it to places that are unexpected, trying to expand the audience.
“No one I knew played it or knew about it, and so I just assumed that nobody played it. And then I met one person that played western swing, and then I met a few people and then all of a sudden there’s like this whole underground scene. It’s still living out there. That’s good.”
You can go to her web site www.georgiaparkermusic.com and read all the reviews and accolades, and you can hear her live at the Welcome Home Fest on Oct 14.
“Well, I’ll say that if the readers have never been to a Kerrville Folk Festival event that they’re missing out on a whole community,” Parker said. “It’s a ‘hard to explain’ experience, but when you’re there, it’s like the rest of the world doesn’t exist. There’s just great music everywhere, and everybody is so friendly. If you’re a fan of songwriting, if you’re a fan of dance music, if you’re a fan of being outside, it’s just a wonderful, wonderful space. You never know who you’re going to meet and what kind of music you’re going to hear. It has definitely changed my life. It’s never what I expect it to be; but it’s always memorable.”
Georgia Parker performs at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct 14. at the Kerrtry Courtyard during Welcome Home Fest at the Kerrville Folk Festival. Information and tickets at www.kerrvillefolkfestival.org/
OPTIONAL ART: 89, 91
Georgia Parker resurrects western swing with her band. Photo by Phil Houseal