Like a lot of singer-songwriters whose talents seem perfectly suited to the coffeehouse circuit, Bill Parsons is not about to be mistaken for a showstopper. His voice is pleasant, though not particularly distinctive, his songcraft is solid, though not particularly compelling, and his musical interests are varied, though not particularly surprising. Or at least that's the impression created by his latest CD, "Special Delivery," a collection of mostly original tunes that somehow manage to be both hard to knock and hard to fully embrace.
Yet thanks primarily to the smarts Parsons exhibits as a songwriter, several tunes here call out for repeat spins. Some of them are innocent old-fashioned ballads ("Easy Affection"), others have a sardonic edge ("The Road Less Traveled" and "You Can't Go Back Where You've Never Been"), and yet another ("Breakup School") falls somewhere in between by wedding a bitter lyric to a bouncy rockabilly beat. The album's lone cover, Thomas Dolby's once ubiquitous "She Blinded Me With Science," benefits from a fresh slant and punctuates the album with an appealing interlude.
With its neatly honed blend of folk, rock, pop, country and gospel influences, Parsons has every right to be proud of this release. He's composed some good songs and assembled a strong cast of musicians. Shoppers, though, should keep one thing in mind: Don't put too much faith in the album's title.
Appearing Thursday at IOTA.
To hear a free Sound Bite from Bill Parsons, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8127. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)