Country rock group Parmalee’s debut album, Feels Like Carolina, pounds to the blue-collar sound of a young band establishing themselves in a continually diverse format. Hailing from Parmele, NC, the band – consisting of brothers Matt Thomas (vocals, guitar) and Scott Thomas (drums), cousin Barry Knox (bass) and lifelong friend Josh McSwain (guitar) – plays a brand of power chord country that matches a rugged Southern Rock swagger with a contemporary lyrical slant. Ranging from party anthems to power ballads, Feels Like Carolina, which hits stores on Tuesday, keeps the volume up and its messages straightforward.
Like a Southern fried AC/DC, the opener “Musta Had A Good Time” erupts to thick riffs and an infectious hook while a morning-after storyline tries to recollect exactly what happened the night before. Hey y’all, is that my dog up on the roof?, Matt asks with an easy and amused drawl in the album’s first line. The details might be hazy, but one thing is for certain; Parmalee is a band in every respect. Whether it’s the rhythm and lead guitar interplay of the nostalgic “Back In The Day,” or the steady, locked in beat of the Luke Bryan-tinged love song “Close Your Eyes,” the chemistry of a tight group of musicians comes through with an electric buzz.
With songs like “I’ll Bring The Music,” which then urges others to bring the beer, and the retro-beach highlight “Day Drinkin’,” Feels Like Carolina makes sure the cooler is stocked. However, working with four-man production team NV (Thompson Square’s Just Feels Good), the guys do an excellent job of evening out the project with a batch of more reflective songs as well. The current Top 5 single “Carolina” and the sentimental “Another Day Gone” both strike personal notes. Over a descending chord progression on the latter, the words I screwed up seven summers in one afternoon gone wrong cut with the realization of one’s mistakes.
Parmalee formed in the mid-’00s and their ear for melody is extremely sharp. The urgent contemporary country tune “Already Callin’ You Mine” doesn’t overspend its lyrics or try to pack too much into each line. Instead, the rolling chorus fits naturally over an engaging, radio-friendly hook. The firm “Think You Oughta Know That” and lightning-quick “Move” both keep their distorted foundations while delivering consistently accessible patterns. And possibly the album’s best example of Parmalee’s sound, “My Montgomery” combines a strong rhythm section with frayed electric guitars and notes that dive in and out. Matt’s homeward bound vocal moves easily while the rest of the band each claims their own musical territory for some of the record’s most compelling passages.
Displaying influences that range from Blake Shelton to ’80s hard rock acts like Mötley Crüe, Parmalee successfully blurs the lines between country and rock. What sets Parmalee apart, however, is that their chemistry as a band and authentic love for both genres comes through with a powerful kick. Feels Like Carolina feels really good as Parmalee holds a torch for a new brand of contemporary country and Southern rock.
Key Tracks – “Carolina,” “My Montgomery,” “Day Drinkin’,” “Another Day Gone”