Chances are you’ll know of Charlie Parr but just don’t know it. His old-timey blues sound featured prominently in a TV commercial for a mobile phone company. You know… the one with the line “gave all my money to the government”? Well that was the title track off ‘1922’, an album Parr released in Australia in April of this year, bolstered by an Australian tour, which included a support spot with Paul Kelly’s tour.
Well, Parr is back with his second release for 2009, Roustabout. The Duluth, Minnesota native is doing what he does best on Roustabout, recorded throughout his home state in a truly stripped back manner.
From a Reverend Gary Davis-esque ragtime number in ‘Warmin’ By the Devil’s Fire’ to the shuffle of ‘Cropduster’, Parr convincingly covers solid ground within the blues genre with more than a hint of twang, with the odd foray into other territories like gospel in a way only a bluesman can manage.
Despite being a relatively a solid outing, it lacks any real outstanding track that past releases by Parr and his peers that gives modern day credence to a genre like the blues. What the album instead has going for it is a cohesive sound, grounded throughout by a suitably murky and smokey production that lends it a sense of unassuming authenticity. You’re not gonna find any FM radio-friendly tracks amongst the 45 minutes of Roustabout, but that’s hardly the measure of an album, and this is one where its authenticity speaks for itself.
With a renaissance of sorts taking place as we speak in the world of blues, amongst the hipster/theatrical performances of acts such as C.W. Stoneking and ‘Seasick’ Steve Wold, a more unassuming performer like Charlie Parr is definitely a welcome addition, and Roustabout should fit nicely in a CD stack alongside Stoneking’s Jungle Blues and Wold’s Man From Another Time.