Charlie Parr brings mix of blues, folk and gospel to Cactus Club
"When you're from somewhere, you always think it's unique," says Parr, commenting on the Duluth music scene.
With heavy-hitters like Low and Trampled by Turtles hailing from Duluth, Parr says the area's musicians are a strange mixture.
"It's a really diverse cast of characters playing a variety of stuff, metal, hip hop, punk – gobs of different music – and everybody gets along really well. Even though there's not a lot of people up there who like to go out to shows and listen to everything" he says.
Duluth has a population of about 86,000, with a couple hundred thousand more folks in surrounding areas, including Superior, Wis.
"I feel I am a part of (the scene), even though I'm a niche odd ball, they're nice to me. The connecting tissue is that everyone loves music so much that you can't even imagine, really," says Parr.
Parr is set to finish recording "Barn Swallow," his new album of original material, in June, but that recording has been "kind of a process" with this one.
Rumored on the Internet and in some Minnesota music circles that he has been suffering from carpal tunnel, Parr clarified that he actually has severe tendonitis which has "basically settled in for life."
"I'm feeling pretty lucky about it right now; last year I would have been pretty gloomy about it," he says.
Parr usually plays with his thumb and two fingers but now will play thumb and one finger, if he needs to. Players like Reverend Gary Davis and Mance Lipscomb picked with thumb and one finger, as well as many country / blues guitar players that Parr is fond of.
Parr says he's paying more attention now, in part because he has to in order not to exacerbate his tendonitis, but he's found that the new attention to what his fingers are doing as he's picking has its rewards as well.
"When I started out playing, I found it easier using two fingers, like Mississippi John Hurt. I don't think my style has changed much; if anything, it's slowed down a little bit but also become more precise," he says.
Parr was writing everything for a while on banjo and then transferring his music to the guitar, but he found the banjo harder on his arm. He usually writes with the National, but can still write with either, and is working on getting back to traveling with the banjo.
Parr doesn't like studios very much so will finish recording the new album at a friend's farmhouse in the woods near Cannon Falls, Minn.
Although most of the songs on "Barn Swallow" were written a while ago, Parr kept working on them and says he's become more comfortable with his songwriting, especially with the storytelling aspects, and also intends to include a washboard player, some harmonica and maybe a fiddler on the new album.
"But it won't be anything crazy new, like electricity. I'm a pretty predictable person I guess, but these songs feel like a new direction," says Parr.
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