Tin Angel (TAR034)
Jimmy Bell, Nowhere...Fast, My Wife, Motorcycle Blues, Badger, Groundhog Day Blues, Henry Goes To The Bank, True Friends, Jesus Is A Hobo, Rattlesnake
When choosing which items to review for each catalogue, we don't always get to include all the ones we really should. Restrictions in available space, incompatible timings with labels and distributors, delays in release dates and occasionally just not keeping up to speed with what's out there all contribute to the feeling from time to time that there are 'ones that got away'.
Well, I certainly felt this with Charlie Parr's previous CD of a year or so back (Cheap Wine - TAR023). This was (is) a supremely evocative set of blues and old-time Americana folk songs from as authentic and uncompromising a musician you will find.
So, there was no chance of repeating my mistake this time around and I managed to snaffle up a copy of this as soon as I possibly could. And, as was hoped, it is every bit as good as Cheap Wine, a full-on hoedown of washboards, harps, banjos, acoustic guitars (picked and with slashing slide), with moments of quiet beauty, humour and off-beat literacy.
As well as the quality of the music and the playing, it is this element of literacy that helps set Charlie apart from anyone else. In my mind, and I may just be a little fanciful here, each of his songs is almost a complete short story in itself, dissecting the lives of his characters and marking out their quiet desperation, mostly of poor blue collar and rural Americans for who the American Dream is souring a little. Makes me almost want to dust down those Raymond Carver and Richard Ford short stories on the bookshelf and catch up with a little light reading.
I say almost though, as the books can of course wait a little while longer. I'm still not finished with this CD and another listen to True Friends seems to be my most pressing appointment at this moment in time. This is one of many highlights of the album, invoking as it does the spirit of Son House, both in terms of its slide guitar delta blues rhythm while also incorporating some of the lyrics of Son's Grinnin' In Your Face in the telling of the story of Mag and Stan and their life on the road. And while we're here, I just may as well take in the meditative Jesus Is A Hobo and the throwaway fun of Rattlesnake.
So far, I've been listening to this CD almost every day for the last fortnight and I'm still not tiring of it yet. And, as you might imagine, I've gone back to Cheap Wine a few times recently as well.
I think this is recommendation enough, don't you? And before you ask, Barnswallow is the name of an instrumental piece that was left off the album but kept as the album title - simply because the cover artwork had already been completed!
Review Date: April 2013