Charlie Parr’s “Hollandale” is an Instrumental Master Work

January 30, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  12 Comments


The great American folk singing legend and banjo player Pete Seeger passed away on January 27th, leaving the rest of us behind to ponder our slowly-diminishing roster of living folk musicians with truly original voices that will outlast their own lifetimes and beyond, while the hungry ear searches in vain through both the overwhelming crush of recorded material, and a veritable vacuum of anything that isn’t a derivative of something that came before, to hopefully discover a piece of recorded music that touches the heart in a truly original manner.

charlie-parrAll but appropriate then that on the very next day, January 28th, one of our generation’s most venerable folk musicians, Duluth, Minnesota’s Charlie Parr released his 12th full-length album, and one that arguably mark’s the artist’s most bold, and most ambitious undertaking yet, not just of his career, but of the careers of many of his peers. It is called Hollandale, and it is a leap beyond measure, with no regard for the firmness of the landing. It is an act of both faith and improvisation, but bound and directed by the unspoken communion between a master musician and his instrument, immersed in the inspirational atmosphere that permeates an artist as he submits himself wholly to the musical experience and allows it to breathe through him.

Hollandale is like nothing you’ve heard, from Charlie Parr or anyone else, at least not like anything you’ve heard for a very, very long time, and with this amount of body and clarity behind the recording itself. Whatever you were expecting from this album, you are probably wrong, and in its stead you get an in-depth exploration into what it means to be alive, to be human, to feel pain and to yearn and reflect, without a single word being spoken on the entire work.

With his custom, unique tunings played on a resonator, Charlie Parr delivers a sound that is both full, and ambitiously stripped-down to the very root of primitive American music. It is bursting with colorful narratives, original characters, and auspicious wisdom without including a bit of grammar. And most importantly, Hollandale is a journey. It takes you places; wherever you want to go.

charlie-parr-hollandaleHollandale consists of only 5 tracks, including a two-part movement that has the same name of Parr’s last album, “I Dreamed I Saw Paul Bunyan Last Night”. It also includes a 4 ½-minute collaboration with Alan Sparhawk of the Duluth band Low. But all told the album still delivers a stellar, 40-minute musical experience. This album is also exquisitely recorded, mixed, and mastered. The production is as much of an important component to the project as Charlie’s slide and his signature tunings in taking the record to a high level of critical recorded works. Hollandale was specifically engineered for vinyl, but even in the CD and streaming formats, the liveliness and warmth of the recording isn’t just an enhancement of the Hollandale experience, it is a seminal part of it.

Hollandale is a victorious moment for Charlie Parr, and shouldn’t just make it into your home’s music collection, but is one of those works you could hear being secured in the Smithsonian’s archives of important American instrumental music works. Charlie Parr has set the bar of creativity and originality that all folk, blues, and country musicians will be measured against throughout 2014 and beyond, and did what every musician would love to do 12 releases into their musical journey: make an impact larger than themselves.

Two guns up.

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Purchase Hollandale from Chaperone Records

Preview & Purchase tracks from Amazon

12 Comments to “Charlie Parr’s “Hollandale” is an Instrumental Master Work”

  • Can’t wait to hear this record. Parr is national treasure.


  • We are fortunate, here in Minnesota, that Charlie can be routinely found performing in small local watering holes, often with no cover charge. The first time I saw him was at the 331 Club, NE Minneapolis, I was awestruck – and I continue to be every time I see him. A true national treasure indeed!


  • Had the pleasure of seeing Charlie Parr at a 50 seat venue and he killed it. My first exposure to him. Equally as enjoyable are his observations that he puts up on his Facebook page. The man is a throwback. Happy to see him on SCM.


  • Thanks Trigger! I first experienced Charlie Parr at Weber’s Deck. I was blown away and Charlie received a well deserved standing ovation. Every time I play “Barnswallow” people ask, “Who is this?” Followed by “Why haven’t heard of this guy?”

    Looking forward to getting the new one. I ordered 2 so I can share the Love.


  • I had the opportunity to see Pete Seeger play, many, many years ago, at a AIDS benefit, in a small church in Middletown, CT. It was a unique experience, Seeger had the ability to speak a verse just before he sang it. He would teach, and sing the song simultaneously, so everyone in the audience could sing along, even to the songs they didn’t know. Amazing.

    Will probably have to travel to Duluth to see Charlie Parr.


  • love charlie parr, he is humble, and of a unique breed and deserves all the reverence bestowed upon him.


  • Great review for a guy and a recording that truly deserve it. I’ve done a few shows with Charlie and he is just as wonderful face to face as he is on stage or recording.


  • After reading your review, I downloaded “Hollandale.” Instrumentals aren’t my thing, but I really liked it. I will purchase the vinyl at one of his shows! I’m excited to hear his other albums. Thanks for putting Charlie Parr on my radar!


    • Instrumentals aren’t really my thing either. Parr really challenged himself with this one, and pulled it off brilliantly. I’m really looking forward to getting this on vinyl as well.


    • gentlemen, if your interested Charlie has two other unofficial instrumental albums from a couple years back that are available as free downloads on the Criminals And Sinners blog.

      the first one is a 2009 session of eight songs (one with vocals). a couple traditional tracks and also a couple instrumental versions of original songs from previous records. definately experimenting here but the recordings sound good.


      …there’s also the Lost Duluth soundtrack. it’s six original instrumental tracks made for a local PBS documentary on the early history of the city of Duluth,Mn. this is one of my favorite releases of his..straight hobo’ing music, lol.


      if you liked what you heard on Hollandale, these two offerings should be in your wheelhouse also.

      …except maybe for “2:30 AM In An Abandoned Ore Freighter”. that song is just crazy.


  • This is my first taste of Charlie Parr. Thanks for tuning me in.


  • Saw Charlie last night at the Monkey House. He was fantastic. Had the chance to speak with him briefly before the show. He is free from pretense and ego.


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