Charlie Parr released his new album back in September, and regrettably I’m just now getting to it. Released via Red House Records, it’s an eponymously titled album that does a fine job of capturing a batch of new songs as well as new studio versions of some classics/audience favorites from Parr’s career. The Minnesota folk/blues troubadour recorded this new album at Pachyderm studios in Canyon Falls, MN and sees the accompaniment of album co-producer Liz Draper on bass, Mikkel Beckman on percussion, Jeff Mitchell on electric guitar, accordion, organ and backing vocals, as well as Dave Hundrieser on harmonica. Still, the true star of the album is of course Charlie Parr, armed with his resonator and 12 string guitars, and a collection of story songs that reveal Parr at his best.
The journey to this album was fraught with difficulties. A freak accident while skateboarding with his daughter left Parr with a destroyed right shoulder and a debatable prognosis of when he’d be able to play guitar again. Or more importantly, if he’d ever be able to play again. Parr battled depression and other less than ideal mindsets, but persevered, and thanks to determination and physical therapy, he’s back at it. The injury and recovery caused Parr to reassess, come to a musical and mental reckoning if you will. Parr had to relearn playing guitar and look back on a vast iunventory of songs he’s written over the years. The results, speak for themselves. Charlie Parr is a collection of honest, sincere folk/blues poetry spoken from a master.
The songs Parr chose for this album tell his story whether written by him personally, or his peers. “Twenty-five, Forty-one” is a song by Hüsker Dü alum, the late Grant Hart. “Running Jumping Standing Still” came to Parr via the personally influential musician and songwriter, the late Spider John Koerner, But it’s on his own deeper catalog songs that finds Parr really shining. While injured, Parr found himself revisiting his songs and meditating on what originally influenced them and how they’ve changed and matured over the years. From there, he breathed new perspective and life into a select few, such as the beautifully dark “Cheap Wine.” Other highlights for me included, “Mag Wheels,” “On Stealing A Sailboat,” and “Annie Melton.”
Charlie Parr has been on my radar for at least a decade now. My good friend Tom Harmon has championed him from early on, even directing me to some live recordings he’d made at several Parr shows. From there I dabbled into several of Parr’s studio albums and always came away impressed. For those looking for a good starting point, Charlie Parr is as good as it gets, short of seeing the man himself performing these songs in an intimate room. Highly recommended. https://store.compassrecords.com/collections/charlie-parr