Published Apr 24, 2015Charlie Parr's latest album, Stumpjumper, represents a number of firsts for the veteran folk and bluegrass artist. It's his first record on Red House Records, his first record to feature a full band and the first time he has recorded outside of his native Minnesota. Yet, what stands out in this assortment of new creative experiences is Parr's connection to people, places and things that are very old. Parr relies on the comforts of his familiar surroundings to inspire him: God, his family, his home, and his childhood.
Of the 11 songs on the record, ten are original compositions and one is a traditional American folk song ("Delia"). The oft-covered standard is Parr's most radio-friendly track, and the most indicative of Parr's habit of looking to the past for inspiration. It's during this haunting murder-ballad that Parr offers his sincerest and sweetest vocal stylings, and he personalizes the tune by replacing the traditional refrain of "All the friends I ever had are gone" with "One more 'rounder gone" while also simplifying the chord progression.
Parr's affinity for writing dateless material and the down-home production of Phil Cook (the album was produced by Cook in an old outbuilding on the "Down Yonder Farm" in rural North Carolina) is what forges such a strong link between Stumpjumper and music from a century ago. Tales like "Falcon," the story of a white man assimilated into the Ojibwe nation 150 years ago, "Frank Miller Blues," a story of Death helping a man finish his chores to pacify his wife before dying, and "Resurrection," the story of Lazarus, could all pass as American folk standards. And while Stumpjumper further solidifies Parr as both a furious banjo and guitar player (see "Empty Out Your Pockets" and "Remember Me If I Forget"), it's just as significant for establishing him as a talented songwriter. (Red House)