Donkey Jaw: This is music that many people might expect to come out of the Piedmont region, but not necessarily Minnesota. Tell us about the scene there and debunk any necessary myths.
Charlie Parr: Minnesota has a very strong folk music scene and has for decades (the West Bank in Minneapolis gave us Koerner, Ray and Glover, Willie Murphy, Garrison Keillor, Pop Wagner, Dakota Dave Hull and Sean Washburn, and many others in the late 50’s and 60’s. Nowadays the scene there and in Duluth, Winona and all around the state is just as strong as ever.
Field recordings seem to be influences on your work. What are some of your favorites and/or most memorable?
Tom Bell’s Worried Blues from the Alan Lomax Deep River of Song collection had a huge impact on me, and I still get chills when I hear it.
You make what might be best described as ageless music. What is your definition of timeless music/songs?
I guess the songs that I think of as timeless (Charlie Patton’s Prayer of Death comes to mind, or Blind Willie Johnson’s Dark Was the Night ) are pieces that move you no matter what, or when, they’re transcendent. My music is not like that, unfortunately, but I
don’t think it’s something you can do on purpose.
You grew up in the Methodist church and your songs touch on the folks we read about in the Bible. What influence has spirituality had on your music?
Well, until I was 5 …. My experiences with faith have been outside of organized religion. I love old hymns though.
Glory In The Meeting House was re-released this year and features The Black Twig Pickers. How did you begin playing with those guys?
I was lucky enough to meet and become friends with them years ago after I got hooked on their first couple cds and emailing Mike Gangloff. Then I got to travel out to Virginia and visit them and play some shows together and it always felt right. I haven’t
seen them lately, which is my own fault, I’ve had a bunch of problems with my arm (arthritis, tendonitis, etc) and it’s been challenging and depressing for me, so a lot of my collaborating has suffered.
Talk to me about the relationship you have with your various instruments.
I have a ’99 National Delphi, a ’99 National Estralita, a recent National NRP, a Fraulini 12-string (the “BBQ Bob”) and an Enoch fretless banjo. I love them all, and use them all. Most of the time I’ve been traveling with the NRP and banjo – Nationals spoiled me for guitars.
You’ve recorded in empty storefronts, a brewhouse, warehouse spaces, and living rooms. How do those spaces shape the songs, if at all?
I record where I’m comfortable, and I think it shows on the record. I want the records to reflect what I’m like, and hopefully that’s happy and content with my songs.
Speaking of the brewery, you mention on your website an unfortunate incident involving a growler of IPA and ultimately a good part of your beverage on the computer. What are some of your favorite craft beers?
The local in Duluth is the Brewhouse and their beers were my favorite. I’ve been dry since 2010, though.
What has playing music for people taught you over the years?
Mostly that when I’m playing music for myself, people seem to respond better. I think when I can’t enjoy making music for myself anymore, I’ll bail.
Charlie Parr will play songs from his recently re-released albums, Glory In The Meeting House and 1922, along with plenty more at Fletcher Opera House on Thursday, Sept. 6 at 10:00 PM.