Duluth, MN: CHARLIE PARR is the eponymous new album by the Minnesota-based folk-blues artist of the same name. The album is a collection of new songs and new studio versions of classics/audience favourites from throughout Parr’s career and will be released on September 27th on Red House Records.
Recorded at Pachyderm Studio in Canon Falls, MN, CHARLIE PARR features Charlie’s trademark resonator guitar and 12-string with co-producer Liz Draper on bass, longtime collaborator Mikkel Beckmen on percussion, Jeff Mitchell on electric guitar, accordion, organ, backing vocals, and Dave Hundrieser on harmonica.
The album is an honest and raw recording of Parr reflecting on himself and his career up to this point. It’s a musical reckoning that came after a freak accident less than a year ago that forced him to relearn how to play the guitar, causing him to take stock of the songs he’s written over his lifetime and see them through new eyes. Parr shares the first single from the album, “Jubilee.”
The accident on August 3, 2018, could have put an end to Parr’s career. Only a month earlier he had made his first appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, bookending a summer of touring and career highpoints.
Then, while skateboarding with his daughter along Lake Superior, he hit the pavement. His right shoulder was busted into pieces and his ability to play guitar on stage again was suddenly in question. But, when playing the guitar is intertwined with who you are, not playing really isn’t an option.
He underwent surgery that left him with a metal plate and eight pins holding his reconstructed shoulder together. Within days, as soon as he could tabletop his guitar across his lap, Parr was playing again. Three weeks later he made a pain-filled return to the stage with an appearance on the Live from Big Top Chautauquaradio show.
“It’s the defining thing in my life,” Parr says. “When you think about yourself, you think, ‘That’s what I am. I’m the guy that plays guitar.’ So what happens when that gets stripped out? If there’s any way you can keep doing it, you’re going to keep on.”
By the time Parr hit the road again, he was reinvigorated to play music in a way he had not been for some time. He started digging out songs from early in his career.
“I can revisit any of them I want and meditate on what it was like to be seven years old again, curious about the guitar, obsessed with music and hoarding bike parts,” he says. “I can relive all the joyful times I had with my friends and family. I can grieve all over again my Dad’s passing; I can feel my stomach turn at the mountains of regret that I’ve amassed and the people I’ve hurt when I’ve been too self-absorbed to take better care of my actions, but I can’t change it.
“Songs are a different kind of history though, they’re not subject to the rules of time, they never died and they never will, and they grow and evolve right along with the rest of me.” Parr had never really stopped playing those songs completely and, along the way, they had matured along with him. He wanted a chance to record them again to capture what they had become.
“I recorded some of those songs almost 20 years ago and, when I think about what my mind was like at that time, it’s not what it is now,” he explains. “In a way, I’ve been re-writing them over and over again for the past two decades.”
“Cheap Wine” is a new recording of a longtime audience favorite, a sinister narrative sung from the point of view of a liquor store owner with a dark secret who’s starting to crack. The plotline came from an idea for a novel that Parr eventually abandoned and mined for song ideas,
“Twenty-five Forty-one” is a cover by the late Grant Hart, one-third of seminal Twin Cities punk rock band Hüsker Dü. Charlie’s poignant take on the track is a moving testament to Hart’s underrated songwriting skills. Another cover finds Parr covering his idol, Minnesota folk blues legend Spider John Koerner, with a blistering version of “Running Jumping Standing Still.”
“John is a true cipher in my mind, a living embodiment of the folk process,” Parr says. “This song has been one of my favorite songs ever since I first heard it.”
For 2019, Parr is back on his grueling international tour schedule, mended and reinvigorated, covering the entire country alone in his car, occasionally cooking his vegan meals on his car manifold. It’s a lonely existence that leaves a lot of time for reflection and reminiscing.
CHARLIE PARR is a stunning folk record that will surely stand the test of time, just like the man himself.
For more information including UK tour dates go to https://www.charlieparr.com
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