Christian Parker discusses his new album ‘Sweethearts’, his take on The Byrds’ 1968 record

“I dissected each song,” says singer and songwriter Christian Parker.

“I wanted to do the record my own way and make it authentic and still be true to the original.” The record he was taking on? The Byrds’ now-legendary country-rocker, Sweethearts of the Rodeo. On August 18th, Parker will release his version, dubbed Sweethearts, featuring his rollicking band and support from pianist Earl Poole Ball and pedal steel from JayDee Maness—both of whom played on the original record back in 1968.

Just as then-new Byrds member Gram Parsons loved the Louvin Brothers, Merle Haggard, and Cindy Walker—and wanted to deliver faithful versions of their songs “The Christian Life,” “Life in Prison,” and “Blue Canadian Rockies”—so Parker delivers the Byrds’ versions in tender renditions that capture the groundbreaking character of the original album.

Throughout Sweethearts, Parker’s vocals echo the purity of Parsons’ efforts to import the clarity of county music into vibrant rock rhythms. In addition to the original eleven songs on Sweethearts of the Rodeo, Parker has included three more classics: “I Still Miss Someone,” “Satisfied Mind,” and “Drugstore Truck Driving Man.”

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Sweethearts Tracklist:

You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere

I Am A Pilgrim

The Christian Life

You Don’t Miss Your Water

You’re Still On My Mind

Pretty Boy Floyd

I Still Miss Someone

Hickory Wind

One Hundred Years From Now

Blue Canadian Rockies

Life In Prison

Nothing Was Delivered

Satisfied Mind

Drugstore Truck Driving Man

Christian Parker knows his way around a song, and his musical vision enables him to deliver electrifying licks on rock anthems as well as cascading layers of acoustic guitar on ballads of love and loss.

Parker started taking guitar lessons when he was 12, the day after John Lennon was killed, and learned how to play “Rocky Racoon” that same night of his lesson.

The New York-based musician released his first album, Reflections of Tomorrow, when he was 17, launching a music career devoted to introspective songwriting marked by its attention to the world around him.

Since then he has released six studio albums, including his forthcoming Sweetheart, Parker’s version of the classic Byrds’ album Sweethearts of the Rodeo.

His albums have earned him praise from No Depression, Blues Blast, and Jambands.

His most recent, Every Passing Mile and Best Kept Secret, contain previously unreleased material written over the last two decades.

Parker has written songs with Peter Pendras, who played with country artist Gail Davies, and who was a staff writer for Bug Music in Nashville.

In his songwriting, Parker has “always watched and listened to people or picked up phrases or words they use.

It’s all content for my songwriting.”

In addition to his solo work, Parker has played lead guitar in the Waydown Wailers, rockers who have shared stages with Z.Z. Top, Charlie Daniels, Lady A, and New Riders of the Purple Sage.

Parker is working on an even more expansive second Byrds tribute album, Change is Now—out in early 2024—which contains songs from the band’s entire catalog, from beginning to end.

Photos credit: Morgan Elliott