My first impression of Graham Parsons is that he’s a confident front man; he’s wearing red pants, and, well, you just don’t go on stage wearing red pants unless you know what you’re doing. Then, as I watch the floppy-haired, youthful-looking Parsons thrash about the stage, fervently strumming his guitar as if the music he’s producing is his personal snake-charmer and he the snake, it suddenly hits me: this kid can really sing.
Parsons fronts the Kalamazoo quintet Graham Parsons & the Go Rounds. The polished, groove-oriented rock band features Parsons on vocals and guitar, Gitis Baggs on guitar, Andy Catlin on keyboards, Adam Danis on drums, and Tod Kloosterman on bass.
Parsons shares his name with an iconic ’70s singer-songwriter (although that Parsons spelled his first name “Gram”), but his sound is much closer to Ryan Adams’. Even Parsons’ song construction resembles the more rocking portion of Adams’ catalogue, especially on the beautifully written “Come to Me.” And much like Adams with the Cardinals, in the Go Rounds Parsons has found a band that plays perfectly to his impressive vocal range. They also feed off one another’s energy and have one heck of a time doing so.
Graham Parsons & the Go Rounds formed in late 2009 and released an EP in December of that year, followed by a live EP in 2010 and a studio album in 2011. All three releases–each, incidentally, titled The Go Rounds–are on Strutt Records, a Kalamazoo label that also functions as a venue and studio. The live EP ends with the eleven-minute “Venom in the Underbrush,” which starts as an eerie psychedelic track, transforms into a driving rock song that really showcases the band’s talent, then returns to its eerie roots.
Parsons ends his stage performance by holding a note for what seems an impossible length of time, much to the audience’s delight. By now I’ve ingested enough ear candy to have forgotten about the red pants. Still, the pants make him easy to find after the show. I ask him about the band, then pop the question I can’t resist. He grins. This is a question he’s had to answer for a long time. “Actually, somebody told me Gram’s real name was Cecil.” This, I later discover, is not only true, but Gram’s real surname was Connor. No matter–this Graham Parsons is a fantastic singer and musician, and he and the Go Rounds complement each other perfectly. And they’re a fun band to boot.
Graham Parsons & the Go Rounds open for Matt Jones at the Blind Pig on Saturday, April 27.