Sept. 24, Pizza Luce
The word authentic has many meanings today. When advertisers try to sell you something and use the word “authentic," you know it isn’t. To folkies that word is a virtue strived for by elite musicians, trying to be genuine. Charlie Parr is Duluth's best example of one of those musicians. While getting to the roots of classic folk music he becomes, in a word, authentic.
Last Saturday at Pizza Luce Parr played banjo with an accompaniment of drums and guitar. There were also some jug band jugs in the percussion area, which turned the Uptownish Luce' into a dirt on the floor folkhouse.
Parr was aggressive, forming a séance with many ghosts of folklore. There were moments when it felt like he had emerged from a time machine or had a Smithsonian recording of classic artists playing in the backroom. He was that true to the sounds of the past.
He was born and raised in Austin, MN. He grew up listening to the folk recordings from long ago, along with some old fashioned country. He has played professionally since 1988 and had a stint in Minneapolis at West Bank’s Viking Bar. In 2000 he moved to Duluth and has been performing around town ever since. His popularity with bands like Trampled By Turtles has given Parr a young audience that thrives on his legitimacy. He has just released a new studio album, Rooster.
While sitting on stage Parr sang about beer, life, and women. Occasionally he glanced out to make sure the audience was still listening but seemed acutely aware. Sitting down, and wearing a baseball hat, some old clothes, and a long beard furthered the whole sage impression. He was raw in style, but precise in his playing.
Tonight in attendance were also Toby Churchill and Danny Cosgrove of The Alrights. Like me they had heard of Parr for years but hadn’t seen him perform. Midway through the show Toby commented to me that Parr seemed to be playing all one tempo through several songs. At that point Parr broke down the song into a slow number. It not only transfixed the waning audience but it added intimacy to the entire show. His technique was flawless and his execution perfect.
Watching Charlie Parr on Saturday, then seeing the Bob Dylan documentary on PBS Monday and Tuesday, got me thinking about the parallels and differences between the two performers. When Dylan first came on the scene the folkies embraced his authenticity and respected his way of playing. Later when he started performing with an electric band, he was nearly booed off the stage. The crowd for classic folk is strict.
Charlie Parr lives up to the expectations that come with playing the oldies. His music is the story of America and the sounds that shaped a nation.
Charlie Parr’s next gig is Friday, Oct. 7 at Pizza Luce with Trampled by Turtles.