Charlie Parr's new album Dog will be out September 8th on Red House Records, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon or iTunes.
The Duluth, MN based virtuoso has long been making music but spent most of his years working with the homeless throughout the Northern Minnesota region, while playing shows at night. His observations from his time spent working with the less fortunate, coupled with his own life path make for a rich well of stories to draw upon. Those day-in-the-life narratives together with his incredible acumen as a guitarist have rightfully earned him his rabid fanbase both here in the US and in Europe.
The title track off the forthcoming album is available today. "I have a dog, her name is Ruby but I call her Ruben, and we go for these long, crazy, chaotic walks," said Charlie of the track's inspiration. "Because I decided a long time ago that I get along really well with this dog, and I was taking her for walks, and she wanted to go this way, and I wanted to go that way. And then I thought, why are we going to go this way and not that way? Maybe I should be the one getting walked. Maybe I'll learn something. So I follow the dog."
Dog, is Parr's most personal record yet. Its an album that focuses on emotional issues, issues of mental health and the existential examinations of life, the soul, and the purpose of life and living. Originally, Charlie had planned to record these songs stripped down and alone but at the urging of a friend, he ended up asking his most trusted collaborators to play on the record. Experimental folk artist Jeff Mitchell, percussionist Mikkel Beckman, harmonica player Dave Hundreiser, and bassist Liz Draper, who traded her typical upright bass in for an electric at Charlie's request, found an instant chemistry in the studio, capturing some of the tracks on the first take.
Charlie Parr is on tour throughout 2017. Highlights include two nights at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, MN and multiple festival stops including Magic City Blues Festival in Billings, Sweet Pea Festival in Bozeman, Whispering Beard Folk Festival in Cincinnati and Bristol Rhythm and Roots in Tennessee.
Many people play roots music, but few modern musicians live those roots like Minnesota's Charlie Parr. Recording since the earliest days of the 21st century, Parr's heartfelt and plaintive original folk blues and traditional spirituals don't strive for authenticity: They are authentic.
It's the music of a self-taught guitarist and banjo player who grew up without a TV but with his dad's recordings of America's musical founding fathers, including Charley Patton and Lightnin' Hopkins, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. With his long scraggly hair, father-time beard, thrift-store workingman's flannel and jeans, and emphatic, throaty voice, Parr looks and sounds like he would have fit right into Harry Smith's "Anthology of American Folk Music."
Parr uses three instruments, not including his own stomping foot. He got an 1890 banjo the first time he heard Dock Boggs. "I don't do claw hammer, I don't do Scruggs-style, it's just a version of me trying to play like Dock Boggs, I guess," Parr says.
He has two Nationals, a 12-string and a Resonator, which became an obsession when Parr saw a picture of Son House playing it. "The first time I got my paws on one, I went into debt to buy it," he says. "Nationals are fun because they are as much mechanical as instrumental, you can take them apart and put them back together again." On an overseas tour, the neck of the Resonator broke in baggage: he played the guitar by shimming the neck inside the body with popsicle sticks. "It solidifies your relationship with the instrument so much: It's as much part of you as anything else."
Most of his recordings, including Roustabout (2008), Jubilee (2007), Rooster (2005), King Earl (2004), 1922 (2002) and Criminals and Sinners (2001) eschew typical studio settings. He has recorded in warehouses, garages, basements and storefronts, usually on vintage equipment, which gives his work the historic feel of field recordings. It's not because he wants to sound like he was discovered 75 years ago by Alan Lomax; it's because most modern recording studios make the reticent and self-effacing Parr feel uncomfortable. He often works with engineer and mastering master Tom Herbers of Third Ear Studios in Minneapolis to give his recordings true fidelity no matter what the format, from mp3 to 180 gram vinyl to whatever is in between. Yet his music sounds so timeless that you half wonder if there's not a scratchy Paramount 78 of Charlie Parr singing and strumming somewhere.