CHARLIE PARR DELIVERS STUNNING ALBUM OF GOSPEL CLASSICS
Minnesota Based Americana Standout Returns with Keep Your Hands on the Plow
Duluth, MN—When you’re a well-respected and prolific talent as singer/songwriter/picker Charlie Parr is, you tend to collect friends and admirers with seamless ease. You also have the ability to assemble and launch recording projects that are unique and extremely compelling at the same time. Such is the case with Parr’s latest project, Keep Your Hands on the Plow, a collection of (mostly) traditional gospel songs being released by House of Mercy Recordings on January 10. The album features Emily Parr (Charlie’s wife, who often lends backing vocals to his work; Four Mile Portage (string duo from Duluth); and Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker from Low (dubbed as the “slowest of the ‘slowcore’ bands”).
Recorded at Sacred Heart Church in Duluth, Parr said that the sound quality was amazing, and he enjoyed the opportunity to record with the other players involved. “It's a nice departure for me to be able to record with others in an ensemble setting,” he said. “I've been lucky to be able to play with these folks and I think the feel of the record is pretty honest.”
Though Parr adds that the project was somewhat spontaneous, the idea for Keep Your Hands on the Plow came about as somewhat of a follow-up to an earlier recording Parr did for House of Mercy, Glory in the Meeting House, which was done along with the Black Twig Pickers in Virginia. This time he wanted to do something at home with a few hand-picked players.
“Four Mile Portage are actually friends and co-workers of Emily's and they're great old-time players, and Emily and I have been singing old gospel tunes together for years,” Charlie said. “I invited Alan and Mimi along, as they've been great friends and also appreciate the deep history of this music. The songs have been in my bag for years and have crept into my sets on a regular basis.”
The songs on Keep Your Hands on the Plow are not strictly gospel -- there are a couple of traditional folk songs, and even a chain gang number. But either way, Parr puts his own spin on the music. “Charlie plays at the crossroads of heart break and divine inspiration,” said House of Mercy’s Erik Brandt. “His sound is at once timeless, ancient and modern--and the intensity of his singing and playing draws listeners in. House of Mercy Recordings is thrilled to release this album.”
Following the release of Keep Your Hands on the Plow, Parr will turn attention to his next collection of original material due out in 2012. There will not be a tour per se with this project, but Parr is planning for a few release party shows in and around Duluth next month. “These are songs like the ones that got me interested in music in the first place,” he said. “Getting to record them with friends in a beautiful old church was very special.”
About Charlie Parr
A self-confessed failure (and modest to a fault), Minnesota’s Charlie Parr is nonetheless stubborn enough not to quit. Parr released his first recording, Criminals & Sinners, to mild local acclaim in 2001. In any case, since that first recording, Charlie Parr has managed to release seven additional raw, lo-fi albums right up to the latest, When the Devil Goes Blind and perhaps his best-known, 1922. His newest batch of recordings is entitled Barnswallow, set to be released in 2012. Parr has achieved a remarkable amount of success for a folk-singer and songwriter of his untrained abilities. This is surely attributable to Charlie’s all-encompassing and encyclopedic knowledge of the American folk, country and blues cannon, and much admired guitar playing, ranging across a self-taught mix of slide, finger-picking and quasi-frailing technique and played on National resonator guitar, 12-string and banjo. He’s travelled throughout the US, Australia, the UK and Europe playing everywhere from fancy theatres to punk rock dives where the toilet seats are always missing. Folks seem to like him just fine, in spite of his less than heroic efforts at self-promotion, etiquette or hygiene.