Sunday, August 5th, the enigmatic Charlie Parr brings his unique brand of foot-stomping old-time folk-blues to the Turf Club in St. Paul.
Lauded as “one of the most important contemporary protagonists of the American folk tradition” by the Bath International Music Festival in England, Parr’s original songs are hardly stale regurgitations of John Hurt or Charley Patton verbatim, but unflinching modern songs in a voracious, approaching virtuosic style culled from his dad’s copious old folk and blues records, honed in present-day Minnesota in a lush synthesis of traditional sounds and contemporary experience. Alan Sparhawk of the iconic, minimalist rock trio Low says “so many country-blues artists are crippled with retroism and purism, but he has brought wonder and excitement to this music.”
Charlie augments his set of original songs with a scholar’s repertoire of the old standards, including a version of “John Henry” that rivals in intensity the remarkable recording made recently by Bruce Springsteen. A few Wednesdays back he played “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, which was meant to be how the night ended, but some sexy young thing objected, and without seeming to mind too much, Charlie, unlikely sex symbol, sat himself back down for a rowdy interpretation of the old Rev. Gary Davis standby, “Samson and Delilah.”
A sordid folk song in his own right, Charlie is a high school drop-out and a teenage rambler who eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Augsburg despite a purportedly unconvincing thesis on Schopenhauer’s impact on Existentialism. Now, hunched over an old National resonator, the austere, irrepressibly sincere Charlie Parr is a Duluth institution, playing to a fervid, disorderly packed house of gesticulating twenty-somethings at his Midweek Bracer most Wednesday nights at the Brewhouse. Revered at home, the consummate bluesman commands an intent audience wherever he roams.
Charlie’s new CD is Jubilee, recorded in a garage in the Northern winter, bolstered by homebrew and barbecue. For a free preview of Jubilee and Charlie’s other CD’s, including last year’s Backslider, recorded live over three raucous nights at the Brewhouse in the summertime in Duluth, visit CharlieParr.com.