The Parlor Soldiers are an indie-folk trio from Fredericksburg, Virginia consisting of songwriters Alex Culbreth and Karen Jonas who are accompanied by Dan Dutton on the upright bass. They released their first full-length album, When the Dust Settles, in November 2011, which is a collection of songs ranging from sensitive folk ballads to rough, rootsy songs about sheriffs, outlaws, murder, whores and whiskey.
Talented songwriters and musicians Alex and Karen take turns on the guitar and behind the drums while trading, harmonizing and intertwining their vocals to capture our imagination with every story sung. Case in point, “Shallow Grave”, it’s a down-and-dirty, make-no-bones-about-it, foot-stomping murderous tale about a man who murders a wife-beating husband whose cousin is the sheriff. It’s a song brimming with righteous indignation and imagery so vivid it places the listener at the scene of the crime. “Sinner” is another well-crafted murder ballad featuring Karen’s sweet yet strong voice narrating the confession of a woman who sealed the fate of her two-timing husband. Then, there’s the slow, melodic ballad, “Body in the Quarry”, which tells the dark story of a boy who drowned and the two lovers who go to the quarry to either find the boy’s body or join him. But, not all of The Parlor Soldiers’ songs are murderous tales or stories of death: “When the Dust Settles” is a gritty, bluesy song about the tumultuous aftermath of infidelity, while “Crazy” is a humorous and relatable song about love and how our significant others drive us crazy. And, there are also songs about heartbreak and loneliness like “Mess” and sweet desperation and encouragement such as “Don’t Let Your Dreams Get You Down” on the album.
With this amount of great storytelling and songwriting, When the Dust Settles, is an excellent debut effort, and one that captures the meaning and technique of folk music. And, I’m also excited to see this trio preform live when they head my direction this summer.