Charlie Parr: Set to perform live at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle on April 2nd

Charlie Parr: Set to perform live at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle on April 2nd

Charlie Parr will be releasing his first album via Red House Records, Stumpjumper, on April 28 and has his eyes set on tour dates in and around the Pacific Northwest. Have a listen to his new album track “Over the Red Cedar” below:

Charlie traveled to rural North Carolina to record this album with fellow musician Phil Cook (Megafaun, Hiss Golden Messenger), making this the first album Charlie has recorded outside of his native Minnesota as well as his first to feature a full band.

charlie-bio-picPercussive 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.

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 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 – Ludlow Theater #
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




Christian Hamilton

Christian Hamilton

Christian is the founder and Editor of Rock Paper Rock as well as a freelance concert and event photographer serving the Pacific Northwest and Beyond. He is a certified member of the PPA and Gold Level member of the CPS. He has recently began working with Mental Itch Records and has launched his own Photography website.

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