Although he is only 26 years old, Parker Millsap has already carved out a name for himself in the music world.
He’s a hugely talented guitarist, singer and songwriter who has released four albums this decade and captivated audiences with his live shows. He will bring his twangy sound and far-ranging talent to The Crown at Carolina Theatre on June 20.
His sound and songs are often categorized as Americana, and this catchall term seems appropriate for an Oklahoma born-and-bred musician who forages freely across varied stylistic terrain. His latest album — “Other Arrangements,” released in 2018 — is all over the map. There are sweet, self-reflective acoustic songs butting up against flat-out rockers with a playfully raunchy edge.
In “Fine Line,” the opening track, Parker channels a bit of AC/DC into his grinding guitar and raspy vocals. It is followed by the album’s most sublime song, “Your Water,” a poetic number that speaks of love in spiritual terms worthy of a master such as Van Morrison.
Parker can rock hard on an acoustic guitar, and he absolutely shreds on his red 1975 Fender Bronco electric guitar. He can tenderly fingerpick the same acoustic guitar or play more sparely on the electric to create a potent atmosphere.
Millsap’s eclectic approach is tied together by the high quality of his songwriting and musicianship. Another unifying marker is his sandpapery voice, which recalls Mississippi singer-songwriter Steve Forbert with a solid shot of Rod Stewart’s smoky lung‑power.
A lot of the power in Millsap’s personality and presentation comes from his youthful grounding in the Pentecostal Church. He grew up in Purcell, Okla. (population 6,000), where he attended church with his family three times a week. For 15 years, he heard, sang and played church music.
At the same time, he was digesting his parents’ record collection, which included the likes of Lyle Lovett and Muddy Waters. He also began playing in rock cover bands with classmates as far back as junior high.
His first bands included bassist Michael Rose and fiddler Daniel Foulks, with whom he plays to this day.
Parker’s lifelong exposure to rock, folk, country, blues and gospel informs the melting-pot approach he employs so effortlessly.
His first album, “Palisade,” was an acoustic collaboration with bassist Rose. Two years later, in 2014, came the self-titled album that put the young phenom on the map. It includes several of his best-known songs, including “Old Time Religion” and “Truck Stop Gospel,” both of which touch on the conflicted push and pull of the evangelical world that Millsap had lived and observed so closely.
“Parker Millsap” was followed in 2016 by the album “The Very Last Day,” the most brilliant representation of his rampant eclecticism, with songs about heaven (“Heaven Sent”) and hell (“Hades Pleads”). There are also touchingly introspective acoustic songs and a burning, take-no-prisoners version of bluesman Fred McDowell’s “You Gotta Move.”
Millsap’s latest album, “Other Arrangements,” is, compared with its predecessors, a little lighter in the tone of its lyrics and a little heavier, at least on the electric songs, in its overall sound.
“For a long time, I was really focused on the heady side of songwriting, focusing on telling a story or exploring my ideas about religion and society,” Parker told Paste magazine’s Geoffrey Himes. “But recently I’ve been writing more songs about relationships.”
When “Other Arrangements” came out last year, Millsap was five years into a serious relationship, and that passage of emotional depth and personal growth is documented throughout. And now, he has taken that relationship to the next level. When he performs in Greensboro, it will be his first show since returning from his honeymoon in Europe.
It’s not only his personal life that has been growing of late. You might say that Parker Millsap is hotter than a two-dollar pistol. Already he has been nominated for the Emerging Artist of the Year for “Parker Millsap” and Album of the Year for “The Very Last Day” by the Americana Music Association.
Elton John has been loudly singing his praises, exclaiming of a Millsap performance, “Last night in Atlanta, I saw one of the best concerts I have ever seen. ... It restored my faith in music.” He even invited Millsap to join him onstage in London in 2016.
Gifted with immense talent and a level head, he is well-positioned to become a breakout star. With his eclectic Americana, he could win over rock, country and folk music fans alike.
“I usually tell strangers who ask, ‘I play rock and roll music, but I have a fiddle player, too,’ ” he says. “That seems to get to the point.”