Personnel: Charlie Parr (vocals, 12-string guitar, National guitar, fretless banjo); Phil Cook (electric guitar, steel guitar, banjo); Ryan Gustafson (banjo, fiddle, electric bass); James Wallace (piano, drums).
Audio Mixer: Nick Peterson.
Recording information: Down Yonder Farm, Hillsborough, NC.
Illustrator: Jeff Nelson.
Photographers: Sara Padgett Heathcott; Talulah Parr; Elijah Parr.
A roots man of integrity with a predilection for truly vintage vibes, Minnesota's Charlie Parr has made his career hollering, picking, and stomping his way through the Midwest and beyond, leaving a trail of fine records that feel just a shade away from the great rural folk and blues songs of Harry Smith's epic Anthology of American Folk Music. Eschewing proper studios whenever possible, his lo-fi releases have been captured in storefronts, warehouses, and garages or live on-stage in several cases. Now 13 years into his recording career and with more than a dozen albums either self-released or scattered across the globe on tiny indies, Parr has settled in with St. Paul's Grammy-winning folk label Red House Records (Greg Brown, Loudon Wainwright III), just a couple of hours away from his Duluth home. While signing with Red House might feel like a sort of Midwestern homecoming, Stumpjumper, his debut for the label, is a bit of a departure. Recorded in North Carolina with producer Phil Cook of the psych-folk group Megafaun, the album is Parr's first solo effort to feature a full backing band. A sort of hybrid of his previous production styles, Stumpjumper (the title is a Jeep culture reference to off-roading), is as live and red-blooded as anything in his catalog, but the added thump of drums, electric bass, fiddle, and additional guitars gives songs like the excellent "Falcon" and "Frank Miller Blues" a vibrancy that suits his woolly, homespun style. The wild buzz of loose strings, the ramshackle percussion, the occasional fuzzed-out guitar, and Parr's own National steel, banjo, and 12-string playing create a joyful noise that can just as quickly turn dark, as on the haunting "Resurrection" or the wistful "Over the Red Cedar," a lovely ode to the unwavering passage of time. Parr has only gotten better as a songwriter, and his spirited performances here are augmented well by this strong group effort. ~ Timothy Monger