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  • Carnegie Hall Presents
  • ZH Zankel Hall
  • SA/PS Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
  • REW Resnick Education Wing
  • WRH Weill Recital Hall

Parker Millsap
Sara Watkins

Saturday, December 2, 2017 9 PM Zankel Hall
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Parker Millsap by Laura E. Partain, Sara Watkins by Maarten de Boer
Two brilliant young performers shine new light on American music. Oklahoma-born singer-songwriter Parker Millsap’s songs use Tom Waits-ian imagery, while the “wild, vast power of his voice and his remarkable charisma” (NPR) make his brand of rock, country, and blues unique. Sara Watkins is an outstanding singer and fiddler who is a founding member of the acclaimed band Nickel Creek, has toured with The Decemberists, and puts her personal stamp on all that she plays.


Parker Millsap
Sara Watkins
Rosanne Cash, Creative Partner

Event Duration

The concert will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.
Parker Millsap "Hands Up"

Presented as part of American Byways.


Parker Millsap

At only 24 years of age, Oklahoma native Parker Millsap is quickly making a name for himself with his captivating live performances, soulful sound, and character-driven narratives. He recently wrapped up a banner year that included his network television debut on Conan, an invitation to play with Elton John at the Apple Music Festival, a taping of Austin City Limits, and an Americana Music Association nomination for Album of the Year, as well as winning Artist of the Year at the International Folk Music Awards. Millsap’s most recent release, The Very Last Day, has received praise from The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Austin Chronicle, and Rolling Stone, to name a few.

Millsap grew up in the tiny town of Purcell, Oklahoma (pop. 5,952), where he attended a Pentecostal church with his family three times a week for most of his youth. Though Millsap doesn’t consider himself to be very religious these days, the experiences engraved upon him inform his songwriting. Blending that fire-and-brimstone preaching with rock, country, blues, and Waits-ian imagery, he has created a sound uniquely his own.

Millsap first picked up an acoustic guitar at age nine, then plugged in and went electric after getting into Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan, eventually starting a cover band, Fever in Blue, with classmate Michael Rose, who still plays bass with him today. After graduating from high school, he moved to Northern California, where he interned at Prairie Sun Recording Studio—the studio in which Tom Waits recorded Bone Machine and Mule Variations. Returning to Oklahoma, Millsap put down the electric guitar and got into songwriting, releasing an indie album in 2012, Palisade, which he sold from the back of his van. 

A trip to Nashville found Millsap playing at the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival, where his performance impressed Old Crow Medicine Show’s manager so much that he invited Millsap to open a string of dates for the band, later leading to a slot on their New Year’s Eve gig at the Ryman Auditorium. Millsap has also opened dates for Jason Isbell, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lake Street Dive, Lucinda Williams, and Shovels & Rope.

“I like to set goals for myself that are impossible to reach,” Millsap explains. “That way, I always have something to aim for—a better song, different characters, new stories. I just want to pay the bills and feed my dog, and maybe buy a new guitar every now and then. That’s all I need. I don’t want to be Elvis Presley, but I wouldn’t complain if a million girls screamed for me either. Just don’t tell my girlfriend that.”

Parker Millsap is ready to share his Oklahoma roots with the rest of the country, and, hopefully, the world.

Sara Watkins
“This is a breakup album with myself,” says Sara Watkins of her third solo record, Young in All the Wrong Ways. Writing and recording these 10 intensely soul-baring songs was a means for her to process and mark the last couple years, which have been transformative. “I looked around and realized that in many ways I wasn’t who or where I wanted to be. It’s been a process of letting go and leaving behind patterns and relationships and in some cases how I’ve considered myself. What these songs are documenting is the turmoil you feel when you know something has to change and you’re grappling with what that means. It means you’re losing something and moving forward into the unknown.”

That sense of possibility infuses the songs on Young in All the Wrong Ways with a fierce and flinty resolve, which makes this her most powerful and revealing album to date. In some ways, it’s a vivid distillation of the omnivorous folk-pop-bluegrass-indie–everything else Watkins made with Nickel Creek, yet she makes audacious jumps that push against expectations in unexpected ways. These songs contain some of the heaviest moments of her career, with eruptions of a thrumming B3 organ and jagged electric guitar. But it’s also quiet, vulnerable, tenderhearted. In other words, bold in all the right ways.

Watkins recently found herself without a manager at the same time she was leaving the label that released her first two solo albums. For many artists, that might be the worst possible time to enter the studio, but working without a net invigorated Watkins. It was important for her to document this time in her life when she was between professional contracts, free from the weight of obligation to anyone but herself. In that regard, the tumultuous title track sounds like the first song of the rest of her life.

Fittingly, Watkins wrote or co-wrote every song on Young in All the Wrong Ways—a first for her. Her previous albums have featured well-chosen covers that compliment her own songs and showcase her interpretive abilities. “I love singing other people’s songs, and originally I did plan to have a couple of covers on the album. But as we were recording and getting a picture of how everything fit together, it became apparent that the covers really stood apart from the story that was taking shape. I felt like I just had a little bit more to say. Everything is coming from me, so there’s a unified perspective on this album that’s different from what I’ve done before.”

To say these are personal songs might be an understatement. They’re beyond personal, whether she’s confessing some long-held regret or gently consoling a friend. Young in All the Wrong Ways reveals an artist who has managed to transform her own turmoil into music that is beautiful and deeply moving: “God bless the tenderhearted,” she sings, “who let life overflow.”
Rosanne Cash

Rosanne Cash is one of the country’s preeminent singer-songwriters, earning four Grammy Awards and 11 nominations, as well as 21 top-40 hits and 11 number-one singles. Her latest release, The River & the Thread—a collaboration with husband, co-writer, producer, and arranger John Leventhal—received three Grammy Awards in 2015. That same year, she was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Cash is also an author of four books, including her memoir Composed—a New York Times bestseller—and many essays that have appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Oxford American, The Nation, and more. She was awarded the SAG/AFTRA Lifetime Achievement Award for Sound Recordings in 2012 and received the 2014 Smithsonian Ingenuity Award in the Performing Arts.

Cash currently serves as a creative partner in programming with Carnegie Hall and as artist-in-residence with SFJAZZ. She and John Leventhal are currently writing the music and lyrics for a musical. She also plans on releasing an album of new material in 2018.

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