This week’s musical mental health break comes from the world of folk rock where I stumbled into Parker Millsap and his “Truckstop Gospel,” thanks to a segment on NPR yesterday.
Parker Millsap is only 20 but has the voice of an old soul; and his “Truckstop Gospel” plays on the ambiguities of American evangelical Christian identity. The born-again trucker in this song isn’t “angry”: he just “wants you to love my Savior.” The trucker is both a problematic and sympathetic character in the song. Something in his words makes listeners both want to like him and question his motives.
Kim Ruehl of Folk Alley puts it well: “[Parker's] self-titled debut doesn’t dally in navel-gazing observations, but unpacks the complex symbiosis between faith, fear, desperation and repentance. In ‘Truck Stop Gospel,’ his narration is so astute it’s impossible to tell what side he’s on — not that it matters. After all, the task of a great song is to hold a mirror to humanity; what it all means is in the eye of the beholder.”
When I listen to this song, I can’t help but think of the truckers I serve each week as a chaplain at a large food trucking company. Most of them don’t belong to a church— the call of the open road is duty and necessity and often keeps them away from Sunday services. Yet many of them are full of the same “faith, fear, desperation and repentance” of the trucker in this song and that (I suspect) describe what it means to be human. In short, they’re “restless souls” like many of us.
Here is Parker Millsap performing “Truckstop Gospel.” The lyrics are brilliant. You can hear more of Millsap’s songs on his newly released album: