Soulful Minnesota guitarist Charlie Parr soldiers through life’s ups and downs on a new record | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Soulful Minnesota guitarist Charlie Parr soldiers through life’s ups and downs on a new record


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Minnesota-based folk-blues guitarist and songwriter Charlie Parr has had a long and prolific career, though he’s flown much farther under the radar than he would in a just world. He plays fluently and soulfully on resonator and 12-string guitars with a fingerpicking style in the tradition of John Fahey and Leo Kottke, and he writes lyrics with a novelist’s attention to the diamonds in the dust, creating melancholy but compassionate scenes in songs such as “In a Scrapyard Bus Stop,” “Love Is an Unraveling Bird’s Nest,” and “Cheap Wine.” Parr’s most recent full-length, a self-titled album that came out in September on Red House Records, is his 15th, and on top of that he’s released collaborations with Glenn Jones and the Black Twig Pickers, a Virginia-based old-time string band that includes veterans of Pelt. (He was also the subject of a beautifully filmed 2013 documentary, Meeting Charlie Parr.) The current record mixes new songs with some reimagined older ones, which sound crisper, fresher, and more hard-earned than the original versions—and they very well might be. Parr has at times had to adapt his playing style due to his physical limitations (in 2006 he was diagnosed with focal dystonia, a neurological condition that impacts the functioning of specific muscle groups), and he’s been open about how depression held him back during the making of 2017’s Dog. But after he shattered his shoulder in a skateboarding accident last year, he refused to stay out of the studio (defying his doctor’s wishes) and adjusted his playing style once again while he recovered from his injuries. On this album Parr sounds good as new to my ears, a testament to his talent and insatiable drive. And though his struggles come through loud and clear in his words, his guitar playing makes these songs seem effortless.   v

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