Minnesota singer/songwriter Charlie Parr returns with a brand new record.
I fell in love with Charlie Parr’s music back in 2011, when I first heard “Jesus Met The Woman At The Well” off of his release Keep Your Hands On The Plow. Charlie’s sandpaper voice and old time banjo wailings captivated me, and I have been following him ever since.
Steeped in gospel, folk, and blues, Charlie has been putting out records since 1999 that call to mind the deepest richness of Americana. On each record I hear echoes of the Appalachians and New Orleans, the Piedmont of North Carolina and the wide open prairies of the Midwest. Like a freight train chugging across country, Charlie pulls in sonic passengers and mashes them together, much like the beans and rice he often cooks on his manifold (more on that later).
The end result is a music that is, perhaps, more singularly American than any other.
I recently caught up with Charlie to chat about the new record, Spam, and manifold cuisine.
BRO – You ventured outside of your native Minnesota to record Stumpjumper and this is your first project with a full band. What pushed you outside of your comfort zone for this project?
CP – Phil Cook did. He’s been a great friend and supporter for me, and he encouraged me to get out and try something different. I’m glad I did, and if it hadn’t worked I know I still would have benefited from trying it.
BRO – Stumpjumper is all originals, with the exception of “Delia.” What is it about this classic murder ballad that made you include it on the record?
CP – “Delia” has been part of my personal soundtrack for ages. It just covers a lot – loneliness, regret, unrequited love, justice and injustice, grief. The different versions, and there are several recorded that date back to at least the mid-1920s, are varied and all have some amazing lines, and the whole thing started with one horrible night in 1895, which gives it the gravity it has.
BRO – I know you play a variety of instruments. When you hear a song, during the writing process, do you hear it on a specific instrument or do you have to play around with it until you find the right match?
CP – I actually don’t play a variety of instruments. I play guitar (reso and twelve string) and banjo, but I play them all the same. The songs I write can be played on any of the three, and it’s just kind of a mood thing, when it comes time to play, as to which sound I want to hear while I’m playing a particular song. So it changes from time to time, and recording is just another time, so it depends on what I feel like doing just then.
BRO – We are featuring “Over The Red Cedar” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?
CP – It’s just kind of a meditation inspired by a conversation I’ve been hearing lately that usually goes along the lines of folks thinking times are okay, and then it turns out that they’re not. I walk a lot and find myself walking to water whenever there’s some around, so at least there’s that.
BRO – You grew up in the hometown of Hormel. Be honest . . . did you ever get tired of Spam?
CP – We rarely ate Spam, and for many years now I haven’t eaten any meat. When I was a kid, my dad preferred beef and cooked a mean chili. I don’t know for sure, but it might be that when you work in a pork processing plant, you might develop an aversion to certain foods. I can’t say for sure, I’m just guessing. Beans and rice will never let you down.
BRO – When will manifold cooking gain distinction as haute cuisine?
CP – Never. It’s too practical, not good for folks with control issues, resists a lot of variation, can be messy on your upholstery during prep, and is prone to unspectacular failures.
It looks like Charlie is taking the month of May off from touring, but fans from the Midwest to the Rockies can catch him once June rolls around.
For more information on Charlie, where his tour is taking him, or how to get your hands on Stumpjumper, please surf on over to Charlie’s website. Also, be sure to take a listen to “Over The Red Cedar” on this month’s Trail Mix.
And, if you want to get your hands on a copy of Charlie’s brand new record for free, Trail Mix and the fine folks at Red House Records would like to make that happen. Take a shot at the trivia question down below and email your answer to email@example.com. A winner from all of the correct responses received by noon on Thursday, May 7th, will have a brand new copy of Stumpjumper shipped right to his or her own personal mailbox!
Question . . . . As mentioned above, Charlie grew up in the hometown of Hormel. What Minnesota town would that be?
And remember . . . . email your answers in. Putting the answer in the comment box below is just no fun for anyone!