On Record: Minnesota Singer-Songwriter Charlie Parr

Apr 24, 2015

Singer-Songwriter Charlier Parr

Singer-songwriter Charlie Parr is set to release "Stumpjumper" on Tuesday, April 28. Charlie stopped by the studio to talk with ON RECORD host Matt Weesner about the new album, influences growing up in Austin, MN, and a recent gig at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. 

Tune in to ON RECORD on SDPB Radio Saturday night, April 25, at 9pm CT, 8 MT, to hear more music and conversation.  

Many people play roots music, but few modern musicians live those roots like Minnesota's Charlie Parr. Recording since the earliest days of the 21st century, Parr's heartfelt and plaintive original folk blues and traditional spirituals don't strive for authenticity: They are authentic.

It's the music of a self-taught guitarist and banjo player who grew up without a TV, but with his dad's recordings of America's musical founding fathers, including Charley Patton and Lightnin' Hopkins, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly.

His inspiration is drawn from the alternately fertile and frozen soil of Minnesota. Parr grew up in the Hormel company city of Austin, Minnesota (population 25,000) where most of the world's favorite tinned meat, Spam, is still manufactured. And he hasn't moved far, drawing sustenance from the surprisingly large, thriving and mutually supportive music scene of Duluth.

Quiet, thoughtful and humble, Parr has made two albums of spirituals, and a few traditional songs of the hard life and the hereafter are always 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.

"When you listen to Charley Patton playing something like 'Prayer of Death,' way over and above it just being a 'Charley Patton' song, or a 'spiritual' song, it's one of the most beautiful and haunting pieces of music you'll ever hear in your life. You can't quite put your thumb on it, you just want to do something like that so much...I don't think I ever have, but it's a weird, visceral thing. Any time I get a song like that right, I get kind of that weird feeling, you know?"

ON RECORD with host Matt Weesner is music for grownups, featuring a wide variety of sounds, Saturday nights at 9pm CT, 8 MT.