Charlie Parr's music is primal. The folk-blues musician taps into the bleached, brittle bones of Americana and finds something sinister, lonely and even sentimental. Listening to his album Roustabout, it's easy to lose yourself in the image of an ancient black bluesman picking through his songs on a battered guitar. That effect remains undiminished throughout the album's 12 tracks, even when you find out that Parr is a middle-aged white guy from Minnesota.
That's because Parr commits to the idea of traditional, guitar-driven blues and pursues that concept unrelentingly. Roustabout rarely features instrument layering or any other production tricks that couldn't be replicated by Parr alone in a live setting. Even when an instrument other than guitar is used, it's always a traditional blues and folk standby like banjo, harmonica or the rare fiddle.
Although the musicianship is deft throughout, the real standout is Parr's voice. His affected, gravelly yowls, combined with the classic workingman themes of his songs, carry a world-weariness that's impossible to fake. That beleaguered element transports you back to the early days of American music and makes the experience all the more memorable.
Charlie Parr plays the Top Hat Tuesday, August 2, at 10 PM. $10/$7 advance.