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Charlie Parr | Criminals & Sinners (Misplaced Music)
For all the folk, blues and country influences that find themselves dotted through these pages, that inform a chord change here, an inflection there, few artists among them (if indeed any) come close to locating the heart of traditional American music like Charlie Parr. His presence here is as incongruous as this Duluth, MN resident's album arriving courtesy of a British label based in Leeds, yet he's followed a path taken by Duluth's most famous son, one Robert Zimmerman, who traced his musical ancestry to Woody Guthrie - whose I Ain't Got No Home finds an echo in Parr's Song for Loren B. and found champions in the likes of Alan Sparhawk of Low. (Song for Loren B. also evokes both Nick Drake in its tuning and progression, and the acoustic Jeff Tweedy.)
But it's the ghosts of Robert Johnson and the little known musicians of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music who are brought to life on 'Criminals & Sinners', the authentically aged recording methods and rudimentary instrumentation (Parr's lyrical guitar is augmented by washboard, gut bucket and harmonica) ensuring that the likes of I Wonder How Long Til I Can Change My Clothes and Annie Melton sound perfectly at home alongside the traditional Going Up The Country and Troubled 'bout My Mother.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #13 - Autumn 2003