Folk School Coffee Parlor, 332 Elm St, Ludlow, KY
6pm show all ages
Red House Records is proud to announce that songwriter/guitarist CHARLIE PARR has joined its roster. Parr will be releasing a new studio album, Stumpjumper, on April 28, 2015. You can listen to a track from the album, “Over the Red Cedar,” today premiering at MPR The Current here. Charlie has announced tour dates through April (scroll down for complete dates), including a Nashville show at Ryman Auditorium on Saturday February 7 supporting fellow Minnesota players Trampled by Turtles.
Long a part of the vibrant Duluth, MN, music scene (Low, Trampled by Turtles), Charlie traveled to North Carolina to record this album with fellow musician Phil Cook (Megafaun, Hiss Golden Messenger). As well as being the first album Charlie has recorded outside of his native Minnesota — he joined Cook and a cast of local players, setting up in an old outbuilding on the “Down Yonder Farm” in rural North Carolina — it’s also the first to feature a full band.
Percussive and raw, the 11 songs on Stumpjumper, 10 originals and his version of the venerable murder ballad, “Delia,” could be lost field recordings from another era. His blistering picking — he switches between acoustic guitar, dobro and banjo — and keening, cut-through-the-crowd vocals resonate with a conviction that runs deep and true. It’s the music of a self-taught guitarist and banjo player who grew up listening to his dad’s recordings of America’s musical founding fathers, including Charley Patton and Lightnin’ Hopkins, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. His heartfelt and plaintive original folk blues and traditional spirituals don’t strive for authenticity: they are authentic.
“Red House has always held an exalted place in my heart because of their connectedness to the Midwest, because of Greg Brown, because of Koerner Ray and Glover, Paul Geremia, Guy Davis and so on and on,” Parr says. “Greg Brown introduced me to [late Red House founder] Bob Feldman at least 12 years ago on a farm in Wisconsin and he was so gracious and kind. I’m looking forward to being part of the family.”
“Signing Charlie is one of the most exciting things we have done in recent years,” says Red House president Eric Peltoneimi. “He is a mesmerizing artist and we have been fans of his for a long time. Charlie is one of only a very few these days whose music sprouts from the true vine … from that deep-rooted place in the American soul.”
Parr’s inspiration is drawn from the alternately fertile and frozen soil of Minnesota; his songs exude a Midwestern sensibility and humility. Parr grew up in the Hormel meat packing city of Austin, MN (population 25,000) where most of the world’s favorite tinned meat, Spam, is still manufactured. The combination of growing up with both of his parents working proud union jobs in an industrial meat factory and his largely rural environment had a broad impact on Parr.
“Every morning you’d hear the [factory] whistles blow, when I was a kid they had the stockyards and animals there, so you were surrounded by this atmosphere,” Parr says. Out the back door were soybean fields, as far as the eye could see. “As a kid I thought it was kind of boring, but now I go and visit my mom and I think it’s the most beautiful landscape there is.”
Most of his recordings to date have eschewed typical studio settings; he’s recorded in warehouses, garages, basements and storefronts, usually on vintage equipment, which gives his work the historic feel of field recordings. It’s not because he wants to sound like he was discovered 75 years ago by Alan Lomax; it’s because most modern recording studios make the reticent and self-effacing Parr feel uncomfortable. After a health scare a few years back, he lives very simply, no alcohol and a vegan diet, often cooking up his rice and beans on his engine manifold on the lonely, cross-country drives. He doesn’t go in much for fashion and frills and lives simply on the road, usually sleeping in his car.
The songs for Stumpjumper were written on the road, where Parr, touring solo, spends a few hundred days a year. “I was in a cocoon, traveling alone with my guitar, spending entire days without saying a word out loud.” Overwhelmed by the endless stream of bad news he was hearing, Charlie flipped off his radio and drove in silence to North Carolina to record at producer Phil Cook’s studio in rural Hillsborough, NC, where he met his “band” for the first time.
“I drove through the trees and into a clearing where a group of buildings and some horses and a couple donkeys stood around. Phil stepped out from the barn to welcome me to my new home, at least it felt like home,” Parr says. “I left North Carolina after we recorded these songs, all live, mostly first takes, and drove with all the windows down all the way to Knoxville, listening to the world’s wind rush by, hearing its news. It was good news, finally.”
The songs are inspired by family members, the Bible, overheard conversations and places in his life. A native Minnesotan, he draws sustenance from the surprisingly large, thriving and mutually supportive music scene of Duluth: Parr’s 2011 album of traditional songs, Keep Your Hands on the Plow, features locals including Charlie’s wife, Emily Parr, old-timey banjo/fiddle band Four Mile Portage and Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low.
The title track finds Charlie tapping into his childhood. “Songs aren’t normally very autobiographical for me, they’re more like stories, but this one is different,” he says. “I can see a 1966 International Harvester pickup truck with no hood and four snow tires, breaking field road land-speed records on my way to my job in a filling station.”
Tracks include “Evil Companion,” “Frank Miller Blues” (Death visits Frank to take him home but Frank needs to finish his chores and so Death helps out. Frank’s wife is pissed) and “Remember Me If I Forget” which Parr dedicates to his Aunt Mid. “She was a tough customer … also wise, sensitive, and hilariously funny. She stomped the terra, as they say.”
“Empty Out Your Pockets” is a song Parr describes as “another angry hymn from me.”
“All of the ones I’ve written so far seem to rely on God being a kind of big brother who shows up one day after you’ve been getting your ass kicked all over town by bullies and he takes care of business. I know, it’s juvenile, but take a close look at a lot of legitimate hymns – ‘when I die I’m gonna tell God what you did to me’ comes to mind.”
Quiet and thoughtful, Parr always includes a few traditional songs of the hard life and the hereafter in his live sets. Such music isn’t necessarily rooted in the Methodist church in which he grew up: “It was more like, let’s get the service over quick so we can get downstairs and drink coffee and have pie!”
But faith, though undefined, underlines all of Charlie’s music, both in the listening, the covering, the writing and performing. For more information on Charlie, go to
Charlie Parr on Tour
* With Trampled by Turtles
# With J.D. Wilkes
+ With Betse Ellis
TH 2/5 Bloomington, IN – Bluebird Nightclub *
FR 2/6 St. Louis, MO – The Pageant *
SA 2/7 Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium *
FR 2/13 Dresser, WI – Trollhaugen
SA 2/14 La Crosse, WI – The Root Note
FR 2/20 Berwyn, IL – Fitzgerald’s Nightclub
SA 2/21 Minneapolis, MN – Cedar Cultural Center
SA 2/28 Ludlow, KY – Folk School Coffee Parlor
MO 3/2 New York, NY – The Iridium
WE 3/4 Northampton, MA – The Parlor Room #
TH 3/5 Cambridge, MA – Atwoods Tavern #
FR 3/6 Winooski, VT – The Monkey House
SA 3/7 Rochester, NY – Abilene Bar and Lounge #
SU 3/8 Albany, NY – The Linda, WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio #
TU 3/10 Pittsburgh, PA – Club Cafe #
WE 3/11 Maumee, OH – Village Idiot #
TH 3/12 Milwaukee, WI – Linneman’s
FR 3/13 Bayport, MN – Bayport BBQ
FR 3/20 Minocqua, WI – Minocqua Brewing Company
SA 3/21 North Mankato, MN – Equinox Fair, Best Western Mankato
MO 3/23 Lutsen, MN – Papa Charlie’s
FR 3/27 Fort Collins, CO – Aggie Theater
SA 3/28 Denver, CO – Hi-Dive +
WE 4/1 Boise, ID – Nerolux +
TH 4/2 Seattle, WA – Tractor Tavern +
FR 4/3 Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios +
SA 4/4 Missoula, MT – Top Hat Lounge
MO 4/6–WE 4/8 Reno, NV – Peppermill Resort Spa Casino +
TH 4/9 Berkeley, CA – Freight and Salvage +
TH 4/23 Winona, MN – Midwest Music Festival (Broken World Records)
FR 4/24 Stoughton, WI – Stoughton Opera House
SA 4/25 Zumbrota, MN – Crossings At Carnegie – 7pm