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Red House (RHRCD283)

Evil Companion, Empty Out Your Pockets, Falcon, Remember Me If I Forget, On Marrying A Woman With An Uncontrollable Temper, Over The Cedar Tree, Resurrection, Stumpjumper, Temperance River Blues, Frank Miller Blues, Delia.

Charlie Parr’s previous album to this, Barnswallow (Tin Angel TAR034), was reviewed in these pages on release and subsequently acquired the highly prestigious accolade (in our minds, at least) of Red Lick’s Album of 2013.

For the new album, Charlie has been signed to a new label but thankfully all the ingredients that have previously made his music so compelling and enjoyable remain unaffected and very much in place. Indeed, it would be peculiar were this not so, given Red House’s long and highly deserved reputation as a champion of contemporary and authentic American blues, folk and Americana. As such, the label would seem a perfectly natural fit for Parr’s music. The word from the label is that they very much wanted him as one of their roster for quite a time, so it would be peculiar indeed if they meddled with such a cherished formula.

Recorded in Phil Cook’s North Carolina studio, this new album features ten new Parr originals plus a reading of the traditional murder ballad, Delia. Dominated by Charlie’s propulsive National resonator guitar (with and without his immaculately presented slide), banjo or 12 string guitar, the musical palette has been broadened just a little on this album with the occasional introduction of backing vocals and a sympathetic band (being friends of Charlie’s and fellow Duluth, Minnesota residents who are all members of Trampled By Turtles, a bluegrass/folk rock band).

If you are already familiar with Parr’s previous recordings, and love them as much as we do, this album will be manna from heaven’ for you. The new songs are every bit as strong and memorable as before, without a single lull in the proceedings across nigh on an hour of this album. It is also beautifully balanced between the lively, toe-tapping rhythms that drive the melodies along, as on Over The Red Cedar Tree and Open Out Your Pockets, and the more tender, reflective numbers, such as on Remember Me If I Forget and the afore-mentioned Delia. And when Charlie gets the slide out, whether for fast or slow numbers, such as the title track and the evocative Frank Miller Blues, he proves himself a true master of contemporary roots music. I can’t think of anyone else recording today able to evoke the spirit of delta blues giants that were his inspiration without coming across as a copyist or mere impersonator.

All the tracks included on the album are ace, so it is not possible to pick favourites, although the riotous assembly of On Marrying A Woman With An Uncontrollable Temper probably takes the award as the best song title here.

So, this album is another sure-fire winner from an artist who can seemingly do no wrong. And, while there are already some genuine contenders for the 2015 award of Red Lick Album Of The Year, this may well follow up his 2013 honour. If so, I feel sure he would be greatly pleased!

Review Date: April 2015

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