PITTSBURGH, PA- Among the most distinct voices in contemporary folk music, Parsonsfield have played an integral role in the resurgence of the genre, connecting with new audiences through their infectious, relatable songs and jubilant live performances. Originally formed in 2011 and cohered into its current lineup (featuring Chris Freeman, Max Shakun, Antonio Alcorn, Harrison Goodale, and Erik Hischmann) in 2013, the band’s growth, both musically and emotionally, can be charted through their albums. Their previous releases – Poor Old Shine (2013), Afterparty (2014), and Blooming Through the Black (2016) – demonstrated the whimsical exuberance and devil-may-care brashness of youth. But with WE, the new studio album out March 9th, Parsonsfield set aside the raucous merrymaking for a softer contemplation of the difficulties of navigating this world and finding one’s place in it.

Through sincere and honest songwriting, the band has always displayed wisdom beyond their years. But there are certain lessons that can be learned only by the passage of time, and WE showcases an understanding born of living. The EP opens with the gentle picking of mandolin and banjo in “Light of the City,” an effervescent reflection on longing to escape the anonymity and loneliness of urban shackles. On its heels is “Go Find Yourself,” a plaintive reminder that life isn’t necessarily about following a prescribed set of rules. The mournful notes of a violin and the reappearance of the banjo render “Santa Monica,” a cover of Everclear’s 1995 song, nearly unrecognizable, turning the quintessential ‘90s pop-grunge hit on its head. Known for their unexpected covers of artists from all genres, from Huey Lewis to Mississippi John Hurt, “Take Me Back”, a seductive, bluesy number about longing and remembrances, has the feel of a song from a bygone era but is, in fact, an original creation. The simmering, irrepressible hopefulness that lay latent in the previous songs finally bursts through at the end of the album with the joyous “Kick Out the Windows,” their newest single that serves as a response to Dylan Thomas’s poem “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Mature reflection is evident not only in the lyrics, but in the music itself. The well-placed lament of a violin brings a solemnity that the band had yet to explore. The banjo has been tamed; the guitars are quieter. Freeman and Shakun ordinarily share leading vocalist responsibilities, but on WE, the responsibility is Freeman’s, his soulful voice acting as illustrator of the story. Parsonsfield’s characteristic optimism, while still present, has been tempered with realism on this release. But though the album demonstrates an unusual seriousness, their core message, of carving one’s own path and living in the sunshine, remains the same. WE is a short but sweetly satisfying reminder that one must live fully and with abandon, because no one lives forever.

The album is out this Friday (March 9th), so be sure to pick up a copy!

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Parsonfield's "We". Album cover.
Parsonfield’s “We”. Album cover.