Charlie Parr - Roustabout

Ed James 04/01/2008

Rating: 2/5

Wretched, ungrammatical shouting from Americans. These are, by and large, arrangements for banjo and voice. Most of the lyrics are indecipherable. He wished he'd stayed at home and kept his son in tune. More banjos.

He has a foghorn in his eye and he hasn't eaten in three days. There's a harmonica on this one. Country and western. This genre puts to high a premium on being honest and the amusingly titled Roustabout resembles nothing so much as a dull diarist, recounting his day. The good Lord gets a mention, don't you worry! Someone shot someone else. The cock flew over the garden wall.

It's all very homogenous. I'm assured that the third song sounds like Johnny Cash by Scottish indie band Sons and Daughters. It repeats the phrase walk around a lot over another banjo arrangement. The singer contemplates his inevitable death and the fact that he won't be able to walk around once he's six feet under. There's a female voice on this one.

This is an album that Charlie Parr has composed without having to leave the comfort of his own porch, or so it sounds. Bone-idle. I value verve, spunk and variety too much to really appreciate rural reportage like this. A lady has swiped his truck now. Were he twenty-three year-old from Totnes, this would, at least, be an interesting exercise in ventriloquism, but Charlie Parr hails from Minnesota and his concerns are all those that have come to typify the country / blues idiom. This is not to diminish their emotional resonance; if you have a penchant for the genre already, I am sure that you will find something to appreciate here.

His press-release snidely swipes at Seasick Steve, branding him a novelty act but, in reality, there is minimal difference between the two musicians. Indeed, Steve's flair for generating maximum din from primitive instruments is a more immediately affecting gambit than anything that we encounter on Roustabout. Each song is so depressingly similar to its predecessor and successor that those who haven't been weaned on this type of music may struggle to connect. The modern age is replete with alternative channels of protest and means of communication and Parr's desire to mimic music whose origins and validity reside in a bygone era is no less frustrating than any number of identikit youths pilfering post-punk's riffs.

In short, this is a genre piece. Caveat emptor (buyer beware).