Charlie Parr's latest album deserves its eponymous designation. After surviving and rehabbing in the wake of an injury so serious it threatened his musical career, the hardy bluesman decided to record some tracks previously-issued material alongside some newly-written songs. The resulting collection of eleven pieces simultaneously completes one circle and begins another.
Jeff Mitchell's cover art for Charlie Parr suggests the timeless quality of the music behind it, as do the inside photos of the Pachyderm Studios where the LP was recorded in January of 2019. And that's not even to mention the zen-like acceptance radiating from this musician's own essay inside the ivory tone digi-pak. But that glow is nothing compared to the resonant sound of his voice and acoustic guitar on the very first track, "Love Is An Unraveling Bird's Nest," and on "Jubilee," where Parr delves into intimations of mortality from the prior number, even as he belies the sobering notion with the breathless pace he maintains throughout the performance.
As with the deceptively provocative closing to the album, "Cheap Wine," the disc's second tune, "To A Scrapyard Bus Stop," is no less haunting in its exquisite quiet; so "On Stealing A Sailboat" arrives just in time. With an upbeat rhythm that clearly illustrates Charlie Parr's versatility, the story he tells here is as engrossing as the technical prowess he exhibits as he plays (and his half-spoken, half-sung vocal delivery is entertaining in and of itself). Likewise, a sense of wonder emanates from "Mag Wheels" in such a way it seems to echo long after the track concludes.
The additional instrumental accompaniment is spare throughout. "Twenty Five Forty One" illustrates not only how that accompaniment's impact is far out of proportion to its minimal presenceless is more indeedbut it also shows how the man whose name adorns this record draws the other musicians under his spell: all play with the requisite flourishes of the inspired, yet impart an understatement to those instrumental figures at every step; composed by the late Grant Hart of seminal Twin Cities punk rock band Hüsker Dü, the arrangement of the latter tune is probably about as close to pop/rock as Charlie Parr will ever get.
The other of a pair of noteworthy covers here is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Spider John Koerner's "Running, Jumping, Standing Still," resides squarely within Parr's country-blues wheelhouse, but that doesn't make its impeccable reading any less edifying or uplifting, especially in the context of his recent travails. In addition, the inclusion of this tune by the folk blues icon not only adds to the wide span of style here, but also reaffirms Parr's roots in the state of Minnesota, which he shares with these authors of this outside material.
Charlie Parr may or may not ever become a household name in mainstream culture, but this record reaffirms the thought (absolutely manifest at his live shows) that the work he does is the stuff of blues legend and deserves high regard as such.
Love Is An Unraveling Bird's Nest; To a Scrapyard Bus Stop; On Stealing a Sailboat; Asa Jones Blues; Running Jumping Standing Still; Mag Wheels; Annie; Heavy; Twenty-Five Forty-One; Jubilee; Cheap Wine.
Charlie Parr: Resonator guitar, 12-string, electric guitar Jeff Mitchell: electric guitar, accordion, organ, backing vocals; Dave Hundrieser: harmonica; Liz Draper: bass; Mikkel Beckmen; percussion.
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