Despite its sanctuary-like title, there’s ample sense of conflict running through the debut extended play from American singer-songwriter Parson James.
The South Carolina native’s fairly conflicted upbringing could be held responsible for the discordant undercurrent. After all, here’s someone whose storied past stems from growing up in a highly religious community as a biracial gay man.
Those disparate identities are gloriously reflected on the sexuality anthem Sinner Like You. “It felt cold when they heard the news, guess I better give my Sunday shoes,” the 21-year old concedes on the foot-thumping number.
That out-of-the-closet sentiment coats the deceptively ebullient opening title track as well. On Temple, the southern soul-pop crooner delivers a bluesy number with an uplifting chorus that sounds right at home in and out of church – assuming it’s one that adopts more liberal views.
James has an ear for compounding liberating lyrics and gospel-tinged soulful rhythms. It’s a pairing that sounds suspiciously cloying on paper. However, the man’s earnest delivery of gut-wrenching words – coupled with understated, yet moving melodies – help form numbers that inspire instead of instigate.
That flair culminates in Stole The Show, a haunting number that’s perhaps best known by many in Kygo’s dancefloor-friendly incarnation. Stripped of the Norwegian DJ’s glossy synths and tropical house touches, the mid-tempo song takes on a more emotionally cathartic turn.
Chances are listeners’ opinions of this brilliant five-track offering would border on two extremes. Some would find James’ candid observations refreshing. Others might discover that less-than-rosy depictions of a social institution – that comforts and condemns – make for a rather disconcerting listen.
The Temple EP