Barnswallow

by Charlie Parr

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about

Duluth, MN—Some of the best music is the kind that isn’t necessarily meant to be mass-produced and mass-consumed. Minnesota based folk artist Charlie Parr stays true to that philosophy, as he did again when he approached the recording of his eleventh studio album, Barnswallow, due out in February 2013. The album, named for a banjo instrumental Parr once recorded with the Black Twig Pickers, features ten songs—eight original and two traditional—and was recorded live to tape at the Winona Arts Center. Charlie's longtime collaborator, Tom Herbers of Third Ear Studios in Minneapolis, engineered and mastered the project; and the cover art was done by Winona, MN based artist Jamie Harper. As with all of Charlie’s projects, Barnswallow has that same distinctive timeless feel, steeped in traditional folk and blues.

The album, bookended by the foot-stomping opener "Jimmy Bell" and closer "Rattlesnake" as well as "Motorcycle Blues," offers picturesque counterpoint with the pretty folk numbers "Badger" and "Jesus is a Hobo" (the latter featuring Emily on backing vocals). The songs on Barnswallow also reflect a lot of the personal struggles Charlie has had since 2010. They are mostly in the same vein as his earlier material, but Parr claims that with the more personal songs, “it helps to sing them.” It’s that type of honesty that makes Parr a truly special artist—he’s just like you and me, yet he makes extraordinary music.

To help him make that music, Parr employed his trademark National NRP wood-body resonator guitar; he also used a Fraulini 12-string made by Todd Cambio of Madison, and a Kevin Enoch fretless banjo. Rounding out the players, Barnswallow also features Mikkel Beckmen on washboard, Dave Hundreiser on harmonica, and Charlie on vocals (with Emily Parr adding harmony on one track). “It’s a kind of return to the feel of older recordings I've done (King Earl and Jubilee, mostly) in that I had Mikkel and Dave and recorded the whole thing as a trio,” said Parr. “It was also live to tape, with no tracking and using all first and second takes.”

All in all, Barnswallow is vintage Parr, and will surely go down as one of his best works yet. But there are no illusions with Charlie Parr about making it in music, so to speak. To Parr, his view on it is much different. “I hope folks like the new album,” he said. “But honestly I've gotten what I wanted from it, which was a really good few days with some of the best friends I've ever had, in a beautiful town, making music that I'm happy with and would've been just as happy with if we'd just played it and took nothing with us.” He paused before adding, “But yeah, I do hope folks like it, and I'm happy to be playing those songs now.”

Indeed, and Parr fans will be happy he is, too.

credits

released April 22, 2013

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Track Name: Nowhere...Fast
I left my dear old parents and started out on the road
Just like Ramblin’ Robin and the tramps who went before
Anywhere but here
Anywhere but here
Baptized out on the road
Anywhere but here
I caught a freight for the west just outside of my hometown
With a backpack and a bedroll and swore I’d never hop back down
Anywhere but here
Anywhere but here
Baptized out on the road
Anywhere but here
When I made to jump off the train, my legs were numb and stiff
They buckled when I hit the ground and I lit down in a ditch
Anywhere but here
Anywhere but here
Baptized out on the road
Anywhere but here
I hung out with some rough folks, we went in on a scam
But the blame was mine when the cops came and the jailhouse my new home
Anywhere but here
Anywhere but here
Baptized out on the road
Anywhere but here
I got out in the winter, got told to leave Colorado Springs
With a thin coat and broken boots, I headed north on up the range
Anywhere but here
Anywhere but here
Baptized out on the road
Anywhere but here
Bummin’ around Montana, I thumbed all the way to Missou
Got drunk down by the Top Hat, they said I’d better push on through
Anywhere but here
Anywhere but here
Baptized out on the road
Anywhere but here
This ain’t the life I want, I’m telling you the truth
Gonna get my things together and get on back to Duluth
Anywhere but here
Anywhere but here
Baptized out on the road
Anywhere but here
Track Name: My Wife Left Me
My wife left me, threw my out of our home
My soul is sick and dying Lord
Outside the only home I’ve known
Stumble through the yard to where the weeds are deep
My soul is sick and dying Lord
Now where am I gonna sleep
Lay me down in the tallgrass the wet soil to my side
My soul is sick and dying Lord
I believe my time is nigh
My wife left me but I’m the one who’s got to leave
My soul is sick and dying Lord
I ain’t got nowhere to live
Take me back take me back you’re the only one I’ve ever loved
My soul is sick and dying Lord
And I believe I’ve been misled
I woke up this morning with nothing on my mind
Except please tell me Lord
What is it I done wrong
Track Name: Motorcycle Blues
I wanna have me a motorcycle to take me on down the road
A rat-bike made of Harley parts or a Norton Commando
Then meet me on the highway we’ll take another run on down
That final stretch of black-top before the gravel takes back the ground
Once I saw the Bat-Mobile in a Las Vegas casino museum
And I asked the man could I drive it and he said, well you see son
This car ain’t got no works it was built just for show
Ain’t that just like life that’s the way a lot of us go
Then meet me on the highway we’ll take another run on down
That final stretch of black-top before the gravel takes back the ground
I wanna be like Big Daddy Garlitz in a blown GTO on I-90
In the early morning sunlight with no one on the road but me
Then meet me on the highway we’ll take another run on down
That final stretch of black-top before the gravel takes back the ground
I wanna have me a motorcycle to take me on down the road
A rat-bike made of Harley parts or a Norton Commando
Then meet me on the highway we’ll take another run on down
That final stretch of black-top before the gravel takes back the ground
Track Name: Badger
It was late in the summer when the corn was fully grown
We’d gone for a swim in the pond on my uncle Henry’s farm
And when we got home we saw a badger in the yard
Running flat out for a hole beneath the shed
It disappeared into its den underneath the floor
And it was gone and Dad just said "Goddamn
Badger can’t stay he’ll kill you just like that
Mean as any grizzly, sneaky as any cat."
And he went and got his gun from the closet in the hall
and pulled a 6-pack from the fridge and walked on out the door
While Mom made us brush our teeth and get ourselves to bed
It’s late and he’ll be awhile was all that she would say
and I saw him in the twilight, his .410 across his lap
Sitting in a lawn chair, staring at the shed
A fallen soldier from the 6-pack laying at his feet
and sometime in the night a gunshot woke me from my sleep
It was late in the summer when the corn was fully grown
We’d gone for a swim in the pond on my uncle Henry’s farm
Track Name: Groundhog Day Blues
That mailman ain’t no friend to me, comes to my house everyday at three
That’s when he knows I’m not home, and my wife is there all alone
No the mailman ain’t no friend to me at all
Every single day it’s the same damn thing about 3:00 the bell begins to ring
“Here’s a package, can you sign?” “Come on in so I can find a pen.”
No the mailman ain’t no friend of mine at all
Now it’s Thursday I’m off at noon, boss cut the shift says y’all go home
Maybe I’ll just see who’s around, that mail truck’s out in front of my lawn
No that mailman ain’t no friend to me at all
Well Stillwater sure ain’t my style but I’m gonna have to stay here a little while
I was just trying to blow up his truck but I blew up the house, just my luck
That mailman weren’t no friend to me at all
Track Name: Henry Goes to the Bank
Henry got his check on Thursday and used his lunch hour to go uptown
Henry got his check on Thursday and was never seen again
His job called Friday morning but the machine said he was out
His job called Friday morning his co-workers went “hmmm”
Henry was a quiet guy the worker’s talked about his life
Henry was a quiet guy by Tuesday they’d bet he killed his wife
Nobody at work knew him well, what he was hiding all this time
Nobody at work knew him well, that he was capable of such a crime
And now he was on the loose, on some kind of killing spree
And now he’s on the loose, why was someone like that allowed to go free
They never liked him anyway he was creepy in those brown pants
They never liked him anyway he never showed at the office dance
He’s some kind of radical probably in the militia up north
He’s some kind of radical his kind are all trying to start a war
At the end of the month the boss packs up Henry’s desk
At the end of the month he tossed his coffee cup in the trash
Track Name: True Friends
Here’s a little thing about Mag and Stan hauling down the road in the winter time
Riding on their thumbs but walking most of the way
Stan used to hop trains but Mag’s afraid so they get their traveling done another way
Just wanna get down south to where it’s warm
True friends, true friends are hard to find
To get one you gotta be one
And then they’ll always be around
An old guy stops in a beat-up ford and asks how far did they wanna go
And Stan says we’re going all the way to the end
This old guy he’s lost his wife and lost his grip on the rest of his life
Just drives around now listening to the radio
True friends, true friends are hard to find
To get one you gotta be one
And then they’ll always be around
Now it’s 4 days on the road in that rusty ride and 3 nights sleeping out on the side
Eating roadstand fruit, coffee and refried beans
When they reach the gulf they all lay on the beach and soak up the sun and get used to the heat
Talkin about how cold it is up in I. Falls
True friends, true friends are hard to find
To get one you gotta be one
And then they’ll always be around
There ain’t no end to their family, their web covers the whole country
Maybe it ain’t true that we have to be alone
Maybe they’ll just drive around pickin’ folks up, being yr friend when yr down on yr luck
Maybe there’s a car big enough for us all
True friends, true friends are hard to find
To get one you gotta be one
And then they’ll always be around
Track Name: Jesus Is A Hobo
Jesus is a hobo on a fast freight outta Denver
Huddled up under a twin stack his back against the rain
He’s hoping to make the west coast his food is running low
He’s been traveling on these roads for 2000 years or more.
Yr gonna need me, yr gonna need me
But can you find me, where you look
Yr gonna need me, yr gonna need me
You can’t always see the truth
Jesus is a hobo in a jungle near LA, where nobody really knows him even if they know his face.
They’ll stare into his eyes a disciple from the past but the moment’s gone and lost in the engine’s long low whine.
Jesus is a hobo he never left us here,
Caught a fast one from Calvary and he’s been riding ever since.
Yr gonna need me, yr gonna need me
But can you find me, where you look
Yr gonna need me, yr gonna need me
You can’t always see the truth
Jesus is a hobo riding south outta St. Paul seeing a cathedral through the snowflakes and bracing against the cold.
When he gets down to Rock Island maybe there he’ll
let ‘em know that underneath his coveralls he wears a purple robe.
Yr gonna need me, yr gonna need me
But can you find me, where you look
Yr gonna need me, yr gonna need me
You can’t always see the truth