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Charlie Parr

Charlie Parr – 2019 (Compass)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Charlie Parr

Charlie Parr could be considered the ultimate tireless troubadour. A committed musician since early adolescence, he looks and sounds far older than his 52 years. This self-titled set finds him revisiting any number of seminal touchstones, including songs he's previously recorded, a couple of covers (by Grant Hart of Husker Du and Spider John Koerner, a name partner in Koerner, Ray & Glover), as well as four new tracks that mark his first new material since a skateboarding accident less than a year ago.

There seem to be a couple of takeaways here. A perennial folkie never loses touch with his music and memories. And 52 year olds shouldn't attempt to prove their prowess as skateboarders.

Then again, Parr has established the fact that he's a committed eccentric. He travels the country alone, occasionally cooking meals over his car's manifold. He eschews any posturing or pretense. On "Mag Wheels," he recounts his road weary existence and makes it sound like a sheer flight of fantasy. Other tracks - "Running Jumping Standing Still," "Love Is an Unraveling Bird's Nest," "Jubilee" and "To a Scrapyard Bus Stop" in particular - simply sound like wizened reflections of a man who seems to be the product of a far earlier era, a man whose gruff, unyielding perspective likens him to earlier icons who shared their songs from an untarnished perspective - Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Reverend Gary Davis and the young Bob Dylan, chief among them. Singing solo or with scant accompaniment other than his resonator and electric guitars, he conveys an honesty and integrity that reflects the rural environs of his native Minnesota. It's a sound that's pure and provincial, yet stunningly affecting, all in its own way.

Granted, "Charlie Parr" doesn't exactly find a fit with today's persistent pacing and turbulent times. Nevertheless, the authenticity is all but assured. And that certainly seems enough.