Charlie Parr — Last of the Better Days Ahead
In the realm of traditional acoustic blues and folk very few people master it. With Parr’s latest release he has done just that. A self-taught musician since the age of eight and with 13 albums behind him, his finger picking style on both the 12-string resonator and baritone resonator guitars evoke the masters of another day. Masters with the names of Charley Patton, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mississippi John Hurt, Spider John Koerner, Dave Van Ronk, Doc Watson, and Leo Kottke. All can be heard in Parr’s delivery of all original material.
What stands apart for Parr is that his craft is premised on poems. Imaginative poems that he writes about his life as an itinerant bluesman and his observations on the struggles, journeys, and reflections both past and present in his and others lives. He then constructs the soundtrack with his rugged, powerful, poignant, vocals and talented playing to each and every one of those poems to evoke the sound and feel of portraying an emotional and powerful story. Just a man and his guitar. Much like the blues players of old.
Every track on the album is a gem and is self-penned and self-produced. Stand out tracks are:
“Last of Better Days Ahead” is a Leo Kottke/ Doc Watson/ Dave Van Ronk sounding mash about reflecting on the regrets you have of past love. In this instance, portrayed as the pain of an old car that you wish you still had.
“Walking Back From Wilmar” is a Charlie Patton/ Lightnin’ Hopkins mash based on a true life experience on a cold morning in Wyoming portraying the frustration of life and lives of the people as Parr saw it in his snapshot of time.
“Anaconda” is a Doc Watson/Dave Van Ronk mash of a women trying to escape her miserable life and the fact that just because you feel alone in the world because of what you think and how you are, doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
“Everyday Opus” is a Leadbelly sounding tune which portrays the sorrow of a person who lives alone and goes to a meaningless job every day and their observations of life from their point of view.
“817 Oakland Avenue” is a Leo Kottke sounding tune which reflects on all our good times and relationships, and to be thankful for what we have no matter how much or little and whatever we do have to share it with people less fortunate.
“On Listening To Robert Johnson” is another Leadbelly sounding tune which includes Liz Draper on bass, describes someone walking through city streets in the early morning hours and hearing music from afar that just transfixes them to the point you have to stop and listen.
“Decoration Day” which includes Draper on bass, Tasha Baron on keyboards, and Chris Grey on drums is a transcendental instrumental which takes you on a mesmerizing and at times magical journey of sound and highlights the mastery of Parr and only him.
The 11 track 64 minute 29 second release by Smithsonian Folkways recorded primarily at Real Phonic Studios just screams of creativity. From the unique cover art by Abe Partridge, to the striking portraits of Parr by Ivy Vainio and Shelly Osman in the inside cover and liner notes, to the soliloquy by Abraham Smith to Parr at the beginning of the liner notes booklet, to the preface of the liner notes by Parr, to the liner note themselves with all the words and annotations by Parr describing the substance of each of the songs, no expense was spared in putting out this release and is a visual, descriptive, and musical journey into the man and the music of Parr.
If there ever was a reincarnation of Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Leadbelly or any other of the true acoustic and folk blues masters, Parr is as close as you will ever get.
Last of the Better Days Ahead can be found at: Bandcamp, Smithsonian Folkways, https://www.charlieparr.com/ and all streaming services located here: https://orcd.co/charlie-parr-last-of-the-better-days-ahead