On his Smithsonian Folkways debut, there’s something resoundingly new. The faithful will find an even more intense focus upon the word, and folks new to this titan of international folk blues will discover poetry so clear and pure it feels like he wrote it with an icicle on a window. Over the course of a prolific career spanning 13 full-length albums, the Duluth virtuoso has earned a passionate following for his strikingly candid songwriting and raw stage presence. Parr’s work digs deeply into his personal experiences with depression and the existential questions that weight it. ‘Parr is a master storyteller,’ said PopMatters. ‘One can’t help but come back and marvel at his ability to make us believe that we know each of [his] characters or that, maybe, there’s some part of them in each of us.’ Mojo said of his most recent effort, ‘Parr continues to spin life’s small details into profound lyrical observations of acceptance and wonder… the further adventures of a guitar-picking great.’
Born and raised in Austin, Minnesota, Charlie Parr first grabbed a guitar at age eight. To date, he has never had a formal lesson, but wows crowds with his incredible fingerpicking on his 12-string baritone resonator, guitar and banjo. All that locomotive melodic work is simply the scenery in the tales he’s spinning lyrically. Early in his career, Parr was employed by the Salvation Army as an outreach worker. He spent his days tracking the homeless in Minneapolis, providing blankets and resources. But they offered him something greater in return. The experience completely rewired him and left him with a newfound respect for human resilience. And along the way, he collected stories from the folks he would meet. These characters continue to show up in Parr’s songs even today.