At first play, Charlie Parr’s self-titled new album sounds like a worthy but basically routine album: man sings while skilfully finger-picking a 12-string. (He plays a Mule resonator, National resonator guitar, a fretless open-back banjo, and a 12-string guitar, often in the Piedmont blues style).
The album is a mix of old and new songs, opening with a new one, Love Is An Unravelling Bird’s Nest then an old one, To A Scrapyard Bus Stop, harmonica added from the original. So far so serious, the latter about homelessness.
Then comes the sprightly On Stealing A Sailboat, another new song: great playing but also entertaining lyrics about not going for walk again with his mate Ed: “Me and my buddy Ed / Well we were walking down by the dock one day” he sings, when Ed expresses a desire to buy a boat; Charlie points out “You can’t even afford to float” at which point Ed nicks boat (“I can sail one of these / Hell, you don’t even need a key”); Charlie follows even though he thinks it’s a bad idea. Now they’re literally up the creek without a paddle and drifting away as people start shouting. Ed jumps in and swims off but Charlie can’t swim and starts worrying about how it well feel to get shot. The police get a bullhorn out (“I didn’t even know the police had a bull”) to call him back.
Ed possibly makes an appearance in Asa Jones’ Blues (also sprightly, some harmonica) and possibly Mag Wheels — though the hero seems more thoughtful than Ed. It’s about a guy’s new car, a battered old Galaxy, and how important it was to him as a youth, before switching to the guy in old age, wishing life was as simple as when he just wanted a set of mag wheels.
It’s not all comedy: Annie Melton recounts a Civil War tale of a soldier returning home to find two women waiting for him, one killing the other and then getting hung for the deed himself. There are many more lyrics we could cite but space is finite: a meaty and interesting album, and some fine acoustic string playing.
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