Charlie Parr: Badass Blues for Honest People

Red House Records RHR-282
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Is there such a thing as composite reincarnation? Charlie Parr is what you get if Dave Van Ronk, Mississippi John Hurt, and the Rev. Gary Davis came back as one person. Parr's latest, Stumpjumpin' is timeless, badass, and hot. You know you're in for a trip down the bumpy alleys of life on a song like "Evil Companion" and lyrics such as: "You don't love me/It's nobody's fault but mine/You want me to go 100 mph/But my car only goes 99." And if you think that's love without a future, check out "On Marrying a Woman with an Uncontrollable Temper" with its backwoodsy feel leavened with attitude and lyrics worthy of John Prine at his puckish best.

Parr's blues are protean in the way that blue-collar life has to be adaptable. And, make no mistake–his take on life is fashioned by the school of hard knocks as experienced by rural free spirits and workaday stiffs. Check out the title track, a dynamo of energy, bad times, attitude, blistering resonator slides, and lyrics like these:  "We are stumpjumpers/We are cross-tie walkers/We are grown up kids of the working class/And I work when I can/And I ain't got no money/And I may look rough/But I'm an honest man." It's a song filled with such authenticity that you almost feel uplifted by its end. Or, at least, your heart's racing a few beats faster. Parr can really trump his resonator in the service of Delta blues. One hears Mississippi John Hurt influences all over "Falcon," which is filled with nibble acoustic runs, cool filling electric tones from Phil Cook, and lyrics that equate its antihero with his namesake sharp-clawed raptor. Parr also plays a wicked fretless banjo that brings his blues to the place where the Delta meets Appalachia. And what better way to end such an album than with a take on the classic murder ballad "Delia." (Parr's version is informed more by Bob Dylan's take than by Johnny Cash's more famous rendition.) This is, simply, a wonderful record, though it needs a slight name change; call it Stumpjumpin' and Footstompin.'

Rob Weir 

Charley Parr will appear at the Parlor Room in Northampton, MA on November 6. Check his Website f or other shows. You can also sample his music on that site or on the Red HouseRecords site, where you can also order his music.

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