“Cowboys don’t cry, they’d rather drink the ocean dry, they let the lonesome pedal steel, tell the world the way they feel.”—Ian Parks from the upcoming Cowboys Don’t Cry.
Just so was An American Starlet born during 2001 in San Francisco. Ian Parks, who claims the world’s “worst luck” with women, understands the catharsis of music. “Songwriting is the ultimate therapy,” he says. Out of this came the first album Sweet Country Lullabies, which contains 11 songs that are Ian’s first attempt to put pain to paper in the country genré. The band at this point is actually a temporary collection of friends. Nonetheless, the style and tenor that becomes fully developed later is very apparent.
The band name was originally Starlet, as in a minor star twinkling in the firmament. After registering the name StarletsWeb.com, Ian discovered a Swedish group named Starlet. He was stumped until coming up with the modifier. Figuring The American Starlet was too pretentious, he settled on An American Starlet.
Ian felt San Francisco wasn’t a nurturing environment for his poignant country music. He moved to Seattle, where there were friends and family. This was the seminal event for the present band. Ian rented a room in the house of his friend Liz Green. After hearing her sing, he realized this was the singing partner he needed. When Liz agreed, Ian began looking for additional musicians by placing ads in the local paper and on the Internet. He quickly received calls from drummer Stefan LaMotte and bassist Todd Gehman. Developing an immediate rapport with both, he invited them to join the band. Ian met Charley Rowan at a party and another similar soul was found.
It is the “vibe” of these particular people coming together that has created the unique and passionate sound of their release, The Duchess of Hazard. Ian brought lyrics and a melody to rehearsal and, in a collaborative effort, the song was formed and finished by the ensemble. Ian insists it is the musicians’ “natural instincts” that ultimately write the music.
The Duchess of Hazard is a modern masterpiece of the country roots genré. Its unique blend of country and folk music is at once slow and energetic, young and old, soft and passionate. There is a relentless energy behind the surface lethargy of the tempo. It is the basic human drive to persevere in the face of adversity which comes through—that part of us that keeps trying no matter how many times we fail.
The songs are melodic and the harmonies sublime. The voices of Ian and Liz blend, build and dance together. Ian’s voice just drips lonely anguish. Liz’s conveys feeling and poignancy in a warm husky tone. Traditional instrumentation includes acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle and bass. These are augmented by a haunting pedal steel, electric guitar, B3 and C2 organ, piano, accordion and drums.
Visit www.twmag.com to hear An American Starlet’s song, “The Duchess of Hazard.”
Bill Groll calls Austin, Texas, home. Visit www.CountryRootsMusic.com to learn more about his taste in music.