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LISTEN: Charlie Parr performs live on Centerstage Minnesota

Musician Charlie Parr sits in KAXE's radio studio across from Malachy Koons. They are both speaking into a microphone.
Maria Hileman
Charlie Parr speaking to host Malachy Koons on Centerstage Minnesota on Jan. 26, 2024.

The Duluth musician stopped by to share songs from his upcoming album Little Sun, inspired by Minnesota blues legend Tony "Little Sun" Glover.

GRAND RAPIDS – Throughout his career Charlie Parr has been quick to highlight the influence of Koerner, Ray & Glover.

The trio of blues musicians, who released their first album in 1963, were mainstays of the Minneapolis folk music scene and hugely influenced a young Bob Dylan.

A painting of a person standing in a snow covered road. "Charlie Parr" and "Little Sun" are overlayed on the painting.
James "Billy" Dankert
Little Sun, the latest album from Charlie Parr will be released on Mar. 22, 2024.

Much of the focus on Parr’s music and its relationship to the trio has been on “Spider” John Koerner, perhaps due to their close friendship and shared instrument. On his upcoming 18th studio album, Parr is paying tribute to the harmonica player in the group, Tony “Little Sun” Glover.

With Glover’s nickname as the album title, Parr’s latest work is his first to be recorded with a full band and first not recorded completely live.

Parr began a recent Centerstage Minnesota appearance with a performance of the currently unreleased title track. Over a mellow slide riff on his trusty Mule resonator guitar, Parr sang about different memories of Glover.

From slipping on snowy Minneapolis streets outside a gig to the last time the two were together, where they were more preoccupied with finances than music.

“Tony was always really kind to me. He was always really supportive,” Parr said, “he was an inclusive kind of person.”

Little Sun was recorded in Portland with acclaimed producer Tucker Martine and an all-star cast of local session musicians. Parr rented an apartment near the studio and spent 8-10 hours a day there for 10 days. That might sound tedious to you, but not to Parr.

Charlie Parr speaking into a microphone. He has a scruffy bear and is wearing a red & green flannel with the sleeves rolled up.
Maria Hileman
Charlie Parr will be kicking off his Little Sun tour on Mar. 1, 2024.

“Just living within the record a little bit,” said the blues guitarist, “and it was great it felt like I was home. . .”

Working with Martine had its own connection to the early career of Parr. The producer studied under Harry Smith, an ethnomusicologist famous for curating the Anthology of American Folk Music. Released in 1952, the collection would inspire countless musicians to dig in to early folk, blues, and country music.

Growing up, there were two copies of the album in Parr’s house. When he first moved to Minneapolis in the early 80’s, he would hear Koerner, Ray & Glover drawing from the very same body of music.

For his first 17 albums, Parr prized the spontaneity of using single takes and recording everything live. On Little Sun, Parr, Victor Krummenacher (bass), and Andrew Borger (drums) recorded the initial tracks multiple times, adjusting and fine tuning as they went. Additional parts were added later by Anna Tivel (vocals), Marisa Anderson (guitar), and Asher Fulero (keys).

So far, Parr has released one single from the album, “Boombox,” and he closed out his Centerstage appearance with a solo version. The recorded version has a classic Charlie Parr sound and the musician is happy with the way the new process turned out.

“I think that’s one of Tucker’s unique kind of gifts that he brings to it. Everything sounded like it was done live. It sounds like it’s a big room with a bunch of people playing music in it.” Parr said.

Listen above for the complete interview and in-studio performances of “Little Sun”, “817 Oakland Avenue”, and “Boombox”.

Centerstage Minnesota, Fridays at 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. on KAXE/KBXE, is made possible by the citizens of Minnesota through the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund. 

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Malachy started his radio career at a college radio station, where he played weird music in the middle of the night to possibly no one. On a good night maybe his parents were listening. Nonetheless, he was hooked on public radio and is still doing it today. He joined Northern Community Radio in 2022, where he gets to share his passion for local music as Producer of Centerstage Minnesota, an all Minnesota music show airing Fridays at 2pm.