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Charlie Parr: Stumpjumper

review parr x1 cong

Listening to albums in recent weeks we’ve despaired at people who moan that “there’s no good music any more”. There’s more good music about than you can shake a big stick at, and Charlie Parr is a case in point, though he’s neither young nor new.

See the word “blues” and you might think dull white men playing long and tedious solos while audience members nod in time with their eyes closed, or century-old tunes with a man and a guitar singing about crossroads at midnight. Parr is neither, and sounds both traditional and modern.

And if the sleeve notes don’t make you buy this album on their own there’s something wrong with you.

Reads one: “Lazarus, according to accounts not found in the bible, was not seen to smile for 30 years after Jesus raised him from the dead”. (This is actually true). The title track is about a 1966 International Harvester pick-up truck “breaking field road and land speed records” as a younger Parr races to work, while On Marrying A Woman With An Uncontrollable Temper is self-explanatory, though it comes with a more mundane explanation.

Musically he plays acoustic blues but it’s largely uptempo and with plentiful instrumentation. A bit like Seasick Steve he manages to sound authentic but modern at the same time, and like Steve there’s some mighty fine playing. (Note to people who find Steve an annoying one-trick pony: this is not the case here). Conversely, his music sounds like a CD of traditional songs from the Ozarks we once bought when we were in the Appalachians (as one finds oneself sometimes) — music for the front porch of a shotgun shack as the family joins in.

Parr is listed as playing a 12-string, National steel guitar and fretless banjo and plays all well.

He’s also got a groove: you can well imagine yourself grabbing a jug of moonshine and dancing round the porch all night to this. Most excellent.

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