When I think of musician Denise Parent, I think of the Janis Joplin-inspired vocals I have seen her deliver on the Grateful Dead‘s, “The Music Never Stopped,” with the band she performs in, The Deadbeats.
Parent, of Woodstock, sings with plenty of attitude, determination and a strong sense of, “I’m comin’ for ya.”
I’ve seen The Deadbeats plenty of times and have gotten to know Denise’s musical side very well. Her steamroller, “I’m-not-messin’-around” approach to singing, playing the drums, laying down a groove and establishing a presence can generate a force to be reckoned with.
Denise is multi-faceted, as underscored by her long tenure with The Deadbeats, her branching off with Deadbeats guitarist Mike Johnson in The Deadbeats Duo—Denise plays guitar and sings in that ensemble— and her other musical project, Brown Eyed Women. The latter is a six-piece, all-female band that gives Denise another outlet for sharing her passion for the Grateful Dead.
But she indulges yet another side of herself on her new, debut CD, “The Songs in My Heart.” Anyone who has ever seen Denise perform, play drums, play guitar, sing, whatever, will likely be interested to join her down the rabbit hole as she peels off layer after layer to unveil a depth and dimension as a solo performer that is nothing short of intriguing.
Her songwriting stands out with chord progressions that are assembled in such a way as to generate familiarity, but avoid predictability. There is warmth to each and every tune on this CD and I was pleased to see Denise channel in yet another way her singular ability to radiate warmth as she maintains that, “I’m comin’ for ya” attitude.
I also have to say that if you’ve ever attended a Grateful Dead concert and enjoyed the “Drums” segment with Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, you’re going to love the song “The Lot.” And if you’ve never made it past the “The Lot” and remained outside of a Grateful Dead concert, but reveled in an impromptu drum circle in the parking lot, you’re going to love the song, “The Lot.” This tune is all percussion and I simply can’t get enough of it. It’s two minutes of tribal get-down that scrapes my soul clean. I’ve been playing it over and over.
Many thanks to Denise Parent for opening up her heart to share all of these songs with us. “The Songs in My Heart,” the songs in her heart, will most certainly find a home in your heart. Denise will hold a CD release party at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 30, at Keegan Ales, 20 St. James St., Kingston. Visit keeganales.com for information. You can buy a copy of “The Songs In My Heart” at the show and at deniseparent.bandcamp.com. And now I’ll turn things over to Denise for a few words on the creative process that generated “The Songs in My Heart:”
From Denise, who by the way is the property manager for Big Pink in Saugerties, where The Band lived many decades ago and where they worked with Bob Dylan:
I started playing drums and singing in The Deadbeats in 1993, right after moving up to New Paltz. Soon after that I joined Big Sister and played and sang with them regularly for a bunch of years. During the past 28 years I have been blessed to play in a bunch of different bands, and I have made some magical connections with some very talented players.
I have been writing songs since I was 17. For the past 15 years all of my bucket lists or lists of “things I needed to do” included recording some of my songs. Once COVID shut things down, and people around me started to die from it, I began to realize that I was not guaranteed any time on this Earth. So now I knew I had to get busy recording, at least some of my songs!
I saw that my bandmate in The Deadbeats, Dan Gerken, was actively recording his own music. Dan has a degree in music and engineering, so I asked him if he would consider working with me and recording some of my stuff. Before you know it, I was coordinating recording sessions around our Deadbeats shows upstate, so then I could sleep over and then spend the next day in his studio. We went through about six months of bi-weekly, weekend sessions, and we spent the time in between critiquing and planning for the next session. We released “Hey Darlin'” at the end of 2020 and I was able to use the money I made from Bandcamp sales to record a lot more of the songs.
Between Dan and I, we played all of the instruments on every song. I sang the leads and the backups. I played drums and rhythm guitar, and some percussion on some tracks. Dan played lead guitar, bass guitar and keyboards on some tracks.
Dan is an exceptional engineer and I learned a lot from him during this process. He also helped me craft a couple of the songs, and added some really nice parts along the way. I also asked my longtime friend and bandmate, Mike Johnson, to join us on a couple of the songs that he and I have played together for years. Mike and I have rocked a few of my songs together in all the years of us playing in The Deadbeats. Mike and I also play guitars together in The Deadbeats Duo, which started around 2007, and then picked up again around 2016.
I am inspired by love and by things that touch my heart. “The Songs In My Heart”is made up of songs that came out of moments where my heart, body and mind came together. All of the songs are about love, in one way or another. There are three songs I have been playing with The Deadbeats for decades, and three brand new songs. There is also one drum instrumental on the CD, which some people won’t like, and I’m ok with that. Drums and percussion get me moving and I am a Grateful Dead drummer for three decades. So yeah, I put a drum track on there.
Since I dedicate this CD to my parents, The Parents, I felt it appropriate to release it on my dear Mother’s Birthday, July 30. I put together a CD release party for that evening at Keegan Ales in Kingston, New York. I am extremely fortunate to be backed by some dear friends who happen to be pretty amazing musicians and all have their own history playing in the Hudson Valley. Dan Gerken, Mike Johnson, Kyle Esposito, Steve Dee and Laura Leigh will all be a part of this wonderful evening. We will play the entire CD for our first set, which starts about 6 p.m. The night will go on with a second set of some of my favorite cover songs.
Music has been my life for as long as I can remember. My dream to record my own songs has just come true, and now I get to share them. What could be better than that?