The acoustic Blues Folk revival of the early ’60s — which lured a younger generation to Greenwich Village from places like small-town Minnesota to learn the songs and guitar- and banjo styles of older Southern and Appalachian musicians — seems like ancient history now.
After so many decades — so many generations — of performers availing themselves of modern recording techniques and contemporary styles, it’s a wonder anyone alive even remembers that revival.
It seems so antiquated.
But meet Charlie Parr. He makes the old new. He has recorded 11 studio albums that treat this traditional American music as a living, evolving musical form. On his most recent record, this year’s Barnswallow, he sings gruffly and plays banjo and two National steel guitars along with accompanists on washboard, thumb piano, harmonica, jaw-harp and stomping feet.
Parr, who grew up in Austin, Minn., and learned to play by listening to his father’s collection of old Blues and Folk records, does traditional songs and also writes his own exceptionally observational material. On his recent album, “Badger” tells of watching his father prepare to kill a badger in the family yard., while “Henry Goes to the Bank” tells of an office worker who disappears. Put Parr’s strengths together and you have a compelling contemporary musician.
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