Keeping Things Traditional
While he may not be a household name in certain music circles, he definitely is a talented musician. Especially when it comes to playing the country blues style of music. He hails from Minnesota, he’s pretty much a recluse when he’s not touring. Yet anywhere he tours and performs, his fanbase grows even bigger! Is it a fluke? Nope! In fact, some fans says that he’s on the edge of the human experience while keeping hope alive.
When you see Parr live and hear the raspy growling tones of his voice as he performs. It’s like a lightbulb goes off and you’re taken back to another place in time. Everything becomes in the moment where it’s just a musician and his instruments. While still trying to preserve a style of music that at times has taken a back seat as a genre.
Even more, his influences include Charlie Patton, Bukka White, Reverend Gary Davis, Dave Van Ronk, and Mississippi John Hurt. As for his instruments, he plays a Mule resonator, National resonator guitar, a fretless open-back banjo, and a twelve-string guitar often in the Piedmont blues style.
Last of The Better Days Ahead
Parr’s new album “Last Of The Better Days Ahead” is available on Smithsonian Folkways. A legendary label putting him in the company of Woody Guthrie, Elizabeth Cotton and Lead Belly. He absolutely fits right in with the aforementioned artists. While he’s tipping the hat to the past, he’s also giving us all a unique perspective of what’s happening in the world today. It’s a collection of powerful songs about how one looks back on a life lived, as well as forward on what’s still to come. Plus, his guitar playing is stunning on this album!
“Last of the Better Days Ahead is a way for me to refer to the times I’m living in,” says Parr. “I’m getting on in years, experiencing a shift in perspective that was once described by my mom as ‘a time when we turn from gazing into the future to gazing back at the past, as if we’re adrift in the current, slowly turning around.’ – Charlie Parr
Charlie starts traveling and singing his songs ever since he since he left Minnesota in the 1980’s. The reason being was that he was searching one of his favorite influences “Spider John Koerner”. Whom he finds at a bar 100 miles north. Needless to say, the experience changes his life. For better or worse? Honestly, It really depends on your own perspective.
Sure, he finds his path in an odd way but it’s something he needed to do to move forward. Some of the songs are from meditations on the fact that the portion of our brain devoted to memory is also the portion responsible for imagination, and what that entails for the collected experiences that we refer to as our lives.
Other songs are cultivated primarily from the imagination, but also contain memories of what may be a real landscape, or at least one inspired by vivid dreaming.” Now? 13 recordings, 250 shows a year or more and 200,000 miles on a well broke in Kia! I think he found his path…
The Early Years
Charlie Parr first gravitates to the guitar at age 8, and never has had any formal lessons or training. Yet somehow, this doesn’t matter because he still entertains the crowds that attends his performances. Seriously, it’s his story telling in his songs and the incredible fingerpicking on his 12-string baritone resonator, guitar, and banjo. Also, a lot of his songs are about his experiences growing up and the human experiences happening around him on a daily basis.
As for his music, his dad inspires his taste in music as he’s growing up. Listening to the likes of classic country, Alan Lomax recordings, blues, rock, and other styles of music. But his heart was set on folk and Blues. Later, Parr goes on to earn his G.E.D. and then a college degree in philosophy. In the early ’90s he gets married and finds steady work as a homeless outreach worker for the Salvation Army.
The experience definitely gives him a source of interesting characters to write songs about. Later, he moves his family to Duluth Minnesota with his wife and finds work assisting homeless people for several years before quitting his job to raise his kids and pursue a music career. He becomes a musician, touring and performing and the rest is history!
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