Hear It First: Charlie Parr, 'Charlie Parr'

by Kim Ruehl (@kimruehl), Folk Alley

“Recording,” Charlie Parr recently told me, “is always a big pain in the butt. I don’t know how to do it the right way. I’m very unsure of myself and my confidence goes all to pieces when I’m trying to record something, whereas … when I get to go play a show, I’m excited and grateful and happy.”

Considering Parr is on the verge of releasing his seventeenth album (counting compilations) in as many years, it’s hard not to ponder this confession. But the eponymous recording, which will drop this Friday on Red House Records, was originally intended to be a live album. It just didn’t work out that way.

Instead, it’s a studio album comprised largely of songs Parr has recorded before, alongside some he borrowed from other writers and four new originals. Though fans have likely heard many of these tunes before, they’re delivered here with a care and fit that can only come from being worn in—the way a pair of jeans eventually takes the form of the person who wears it.

Here, Parr honors the many ways his songs have evolved over time, as he has given them room to breathe in their natural habitat: onstage.

Indeed, he is a captivating performer, whose instrumental dexterity and casual storyteller vibe are the centerpiece for his live sets. Parr embodies a certain Midwestern disinterest in pretension that allows his music to cut to universal truths and emotions.

Despite the fact that he’s been “living with these songs” for so long, he notes, “they don’t feel old or used-up. They feel like I’m still working on them.”

As you listen to this full album stream, consider his comments on a few of the Charlie Parr’s highlights:

“Asa Jones Blues”:

“It’s part of a series of songs that I had written out of a story, a short book that I wrote when I was younger. I’m not a very talented fiction writer so I mined the book for these songs. … I’ve always kind of liked [that song] but I didn’t think I did it justice on the first record[ing]. It’s getting closer. It’s always this cobbled-together sounding thing.”

“Running, Jumping, Standing Still” (a cover written by Spider John Koerner):

“I love that song so much. … John is so candid when he talks about it being an exercise he did, trying to rhyme things. But I see it as so much more than that. Getting to take a turn with that song is a huge honor for me because Spider John is one of the musical heroes of my life. I just really, really adore him.”

“Cheap Wine”:

“That one … never felt finished. It’s not normal-sounding. It doesn’t have a chorus or bridge or anything like that. It doesn’t ever stray from its progression. It's almost like a news item. I’ve never been able to do anything else with it. I re-recorded it primarily because Liz, the bass player, came up with this really nice figure on the bass. I loved it and I wanted to capture that. Otherwise the song really isn’t that different than it ever was. It’s kind of boring.

“Most of the songs I write myself, that are my favorites, are the ones that don’t really do anything. They’re kind of dull. They just lay there and bleed out their little story and fall back on the ground.”

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Charlie Parr is out this Friday, 9/27 on Red House Records and is available for pre-order now: HERE

Upcoming Tour Dates

09.27 | Winona, MN - Boats and Bluegrass Festival
10.02 | Pittsburgh, PA - Club Cafe
10.03 | Burlington, VT - Higher Ground
10.04 | Boston, MA - Atwood's Tavern
10.05 | New York, NY - Mercury Lounge
10.06 | Pawling, NY - Daryl's House Club
10.09 | Washington, DC - Black Cat DC
10.10 | Raleigh, NC - Cat's Cradle
10.11 | Atlanta, GA - Center Stage - The Loft - Vinyl
10.12 | Charlotte, NC - Free Range Brewing
10.13 | Asheville, NC - The Grey Eagle
10.16 | Nashville, TN - The High Watt
10.17 | Cincinnati, OH - The Southgate House Revival
10.18 | Columbus, OH - Woodlands Tavern
10.19 | Indianapolis, IN - LO-FI Lounge
10.24 | St. Louis, MO - Old Rock House
10.25 | Madison, WI - Majestic Madison
10.26 | Appleton, WI - Mill Creek
11.08 | Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall + Schubas
11.09 | Benton Harbor, MI - The Livery
11.14 | Omaha, NE - Slowdown
11.15 | Kansas City, MO - Knuckleheads Saloon
11.16 | Des Moines, IA - Vaudville Mews
11.21 | Minneapolis, MN - The Cedar Cultural Center
11.22 | Minneapolis, MN - The Cedar Cultural Center
12.12 | Portland, OR - Aladdin Theater *
12.13 | Bend, OR - Volcanic Theatre Pub *
12.14 | Grants Pass, OR - Rogue Theatre *
12.15 | Seattle, WA - Tractor Tavern *
12.17 | Missoula, MT - The Top Hat *
12.18 | Bozeman, MT - Rialto Bozeman *
12.19 | Salt Lake City, UT - The State Room *
12.20 | Laporte, CO - Swing Station
12.21 | Denver, CO - The Bluebird Theater *
* w/ Dead Horses (duo)

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