You might first be taken aback by anyone releasing a double album in these fractured times. However, after sitting down to listen to one of the best folk-blues releases in a long time, one can only conclude that each record’s approach belongs under one roof. Too few people are aware of Denis Parker and his 60 years of blues. To hear him speak, you’re instantly aware of the remains of his Cockney accent, surprisingly resilient after over 50 years of the best St. John’s could throw at it. From a young age, the London resident recorded at no less than Abbey Road Studios as a member of the Panama Limited Jug Band, before diving deeper into his intense fascination with the blues. Arriving in Newfoundland in ’71, he quickly found his way around Martha’s Pub and has been a musical fixture in his newfound home ever since. Releasing eleven albums of his own, he’s been most prolific of late – with another release planned just behind this one. Launching with the original, “Hey, Doctor”, acoustic guitar and electric slide (Gaston Gagnon) combine in a bluesy call-out to his medical team, replete with Parker’s patented gruff, impassioned vocals, delivered from the hip. “The Dance Card”, which began life as an instrumental, takes you back in time, here with added lyrics and haunting accompaniment on fiddle from Maria Peddle. She returns on “Promised Land”, adding fiddle and a young, clear voice to contrast with Parker’s rough growl and acoustic guitar – a folkish tune inspired by Newfoundland coastal life , sounding straight out of the 1800’s. “Breakfast Blues” provides a jolly tribute to the ultimate Canadian breakfast, solo with fingerstyle acoustic guitar and an upbeat example of Parker’s power – nothing is entirely note-perfect yet his heartfelt delivery is all the stronger for any imperfections. Parker’s solo slide workout on Bukka White’s “Jitterbug Swing” meets a true highlight with “Going Home”, featuring acoustic and electric guitar (Gagnon) and – best of all – the accompaniment of daughter, Sarah and grandkids, Hank and Iris. If this instant classic doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, nothing will as the elder Parker softens his vocals to let his family members run with the jubilant chorus, encouraged by a wink and an endearing chuckle from a proud Grandpa. Heart food. The more typical cover of Muddy’s “Louisiana Blues” showcases daughter Sarah’s vocal nicely offsetting her Dad’s rougher edge, as he adds acoustic slide guitar. The jazzy take on Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbeavin’” sees Peddle return to duet with Parker, her downhome fiddle warming the acoustic guitar. The original “Never Say Never” proves a near-perfect Parker original, with its aggressive acoustic slide guitar, fervent vocal and subtle, sidebar tribute to Hendrix’ “Third Stone From the Sun”. The equally powerful “Once Around the Harbour” is another tear-inducing original cloaked in an historic narrative ripe with nautical references and delivered with barrel-chested gusto, as Peddle adds fiddle and vocals. Fans will recall this tune from its early outing, recorded back in ’77. Charles Brown’s “Black Night” gets a boisterous solo treatment while Parker’s own “Fall For You” provides him another opportunity to showcase his guitar skills.

The second disc provides another pleasant surprise, recalling the influences – if not ghosts of – much-revered folk-rock guitarists like Davy Graham, Bert Jansch, and John Renbourn. These little 2 and 3-minute compositions are impressively creative and well-played – acoustic ad libs which add fiddle, slide guitar, flute, jaw harp and snare drum to his own acoustic guitar. Sink your teeth into the happy-go-lucky-sounding “Wires and Tubes“, the jaunty “Spring Thaw” or the bewitching “Noir“, further underlining another side to his talents.

Both discs represent pure Parker – his animated spirit and joie de vivre are on parade across these 22 songs as you come to realize this ‘old salt’ is at the top of his game – delivering an audible celebration of how much he’s relishing life, his family and his home of 52 years. (Eric Thom)