Charlie Parr is a Duluth-based country blues musician, a juxtaposition of location and genre which is only surprising if you haven’t heard of Bob Dylan.
At the deepest core of Dylan’s music, in all its peregrinations, is, quite simply, the blues, especially the country blues, a point Dylan punctuated with his two mid-’90s albums “Good as I Been to You” and “World Gone Wrong.”
Charlie Parr’s career, which goes back to the early 2000s, has always stayed close to the howling, hieratic vernacular of Furry Lewis, Son House, the Mississippi Sheiks, Dock Boggs and Dave Van Ronk. Greg Brown, another Midwestern, contemporary country blues-based musician, has sung Parr’s praises.
Just listen to Parr’s take on “Gospel Plow” and you’ll hear why.
Recorded in a baptist church in St. Paul, Parr’s new album is “Keep Your Hands on the Plow,” and features the talents of fellow Minnesotans Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker (of Low), among others. It’s hard-scrabble, joyous and profound — the way country blues should be.
You can catch Charlie Parr, live in St. Louis, at Off Broadway for a 7:30 p.m. seated show on Thursday, February 2.
“Gospel Plow” – Charlie Parr
With the not quite over-night success of tUnE-yArDs, it appears that the immediate forecast calls for more chopped and drizzled rhythms, the clink and clatter and whirring whiz bang of more-is-always-never-enough lo-fi sample upon sample. Who needs tunes and songs and singing and stories and stuff when you can just throw a kitchen sink of grime-step at the indie wall and see what sticks?
I would go on but a new song by young Australian songwriter Grace Woodroofe won’t let me. It’s called “Battles,” and it hails from her debut album “Always Want” released today on Modular Recordings. You might guess from the way her smokey, lonely alto breathes over spooky wind chimes that she’s a femme fatale with a generous prescription of benzodiazepines, or at least that she can play one in this dark little movie of a song.
Then in come the skittering jazz rhythms, the bitter guitar figures, the scary ennui of lines like “I tell my daughter I’m method acting.” The singer in the song is trapped in a poisonous, alienated spiral. She never thought she’d turn out to be a middle-aged waitress. And she probably never thought she’d be singing about it so strangely and beautifully.
I’m sucker for a good stereo mix of doubled or tripled drums — see every other track on “Soft Bulletin” and “Yoshima” — and also a pushover when it comes to the bass stating the hook — see jazz — but I’m on the fence when it comes to blowing bubbles in music. I suppose there are some days when I just really need to hear “Octopus’ Garden,” but it’s been a while.
Still, I’ve found myself playing “A New Town,” the new single by UK group Field Music, quite a bit of late. It’s got all the aforementioned, plus falsetto, melodica, more statement of melody from a remote acoustic guitar and a persistent sense of dread that juxtaposes nicely with the overall fruitiness of the track. If this is where highly-studio-crafted indie pop is headed in 2012, sign me up. New album “Plumb” is due out February 14 on Memphis Industries.
“A New Town” – Field Music
The new of Montreal single has everything you’d expect from the Athens, Ga. band — that is if you’ve just returned from a month-long cruise where the imperial ballroom house band plays nothing but ELO, Steely Dan and David Bowie covers — sign me up for the next departure — and the weather was gorgeous with intermittent showers of flutes, Fruit Loops and cherry cola.
If that seems too good or too sugary to be true, make up your own adventure by downloading the track below. Recently, band founder Kevin Barnes described the forthcoming album “Paralytic Stalks” (due out February 7 on Polyvinyl) as “a bit more esoteric, and it’s probably not something everybody’s going to like. The songs are way more intimate and confessional.”
“Dour Percentage” – of Montreal
Here’s a song for a grey and windy November day.
Recorded on an island off the coast of Maine, and written and sung by Boston native Mike Collins, aka the Gallerist, it’s a simple, archetypal, folk tune demo — the circuits buzz, the guitar picks and hammers on, brushed snare and bass shuffle forward: nothing extraneous here — phrased with quotidian loneliness but also a sense of sweetness in just hoping for the best — inner and outer weather be damned.
The Gallerist recently released an EP called “A Falling Waltz.” You can hear the whole thing at Bandcamp. Recommended for fans of the Low Anthem or the Bowerbirds, or if you’re just looking for a new songwriter in the Prine/Brown tradition.
Who knows how I stumbled across boho, neo-folk, semi-popular singer-songwriter Cameron McGill. The song I first heard was “What You Wanted,” from McGill’s 2006 album Street Ballads & Murderesques. As post-Dylan, post-Elliott Smith songwriting goes, it’s a beautiful bummer, with a melody that steps carefully like an alley cat on a fence and a tone that’s as resigned as it is bittersweet. I’ve played the song a few times on Feel Like Going Home; every time I do, I get a phone call: “Who is this guy?”
Well, Cameron McGill now performs with What Army, a young but accomplished rock band that never overwhelms the singer’s sense of wanderlust and occasional piano excursions. The Chicago natives are forever on the road and have made St. Louis a regular stop. Still, they’ve never quite found the audience they deserve. Tonight they’ll be back in the river city, performing songs from a new album, Is a Beast, at the Old Rock House. If you’re looking to discover a new favorite songwriter, this show has my highest recommendation. Listen to and download a new song — with a finely textured, free-spirited indie rock sound — below.
“Houdini” – Cameron McGill and What Army
Cover songs usually take the form of tributes to the fallen or the famous or infamous; sometimes they’re just back-room, borderline-Soprano paybacks.
On the two songs, which you really should listen to or download below, Pug and Strand of Oaks cover each other, and sound wholly at home in doing so. Pug gives his instantly identifiable, post-Guthrie, North Carolina-raised twang to the Oaks’ song “End in Flames,” and the line “Thought I was too old to have dreams like this / covers thrown on the floor / sweat stains my lips” seems to resonate with his own experience.
In return, Strand of Oaks tackle one of Pug’s best-known (as in maybe 12 people know it by heart, but how well they surely know it) songs: “Hymn #101.” Bathed in reverb and doubled vocals, the song, a wanderer’s socio-political hymn, becomes something majestic.
Joe Pug and Strand of Oaks will be making a stop in St. Louis this spring. May 3, 2011 at Off Broadway. It will be sweet to hear them perform these covers live.
The Dirtbombs, one of the greatest live rock & roll bands you’ve never seen — all right, some of you have — have gone techno. This can’t be good.
Actually, it’s quite good. The Detroit veterans’ new album Party Store pays homage to the influential Detroit techno scene, covering tracks by the likes of Derrick May, Carl Craig and Cybotron, and giving them all a furious, garage rock kick, while retaining all the dense dance-floor thump and shine.
It’s fitting then that a few of the Dirtbombs’ revisions of these classic tracks have been further revised and remixed by Kyle Hall, Ectomorph and Omar S. Grab the frenetic Kyle Hall remix of “Bug in the Bassbin,” originally by Carl Craig’s Innerzone Orchestra — while the grabbing’s good.