Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The men that Charlie Parr writes about are the kinds of guys who fit nowhere specifically and everywhere awkwardly. They are off-balance and still completely grounded, even when they're in a continuous loop of feeling like everything's shorting out and then calming down only long enough to conserve the needed energy to go haywire once again. They question exactly how the blood in their body is spending its time, which parts its traveling to and making work harder than others. You can feel these frantic fits in his appropriately maniacal playing and in the sometimes harsh and other times hearty and sweet vocals.
Parr is a man who appreciates failures even more than he appreciates successes. A person can learn so much more from those failures -- and the more dramatic they are, the better. The people that he writes about have been burned so many times that they can never separate that smell of hot flesh from their nostrils. They feel like the burnings might not even be over, just continuing on, one rolling slip-up. They are bewildered by simple things, like why they can't take the Batmobile that they see on display at a Las Vegas casino for a spin. The man at the casino has to tell him that the car's just for show, that it couldn't run or go anywhere even if it wanted to. It's hard to understand such a thing and it casts an interesting sentiment of sadness onto that car, the same kind of sadness that Robert Redford feels for a drugged up race horse, also at a Las Vegas casino, in "The Electric Horseman."
It probably won't ever go away completely, but there are worse things. Not feeling anything at all would be worse, but Parr and his characters are never in jeopardy of that happening. They are slammed with feelings. Even if most of them are sour and tattered, those are the assets they were blessed with so they tend to see them as beautiful raw materials to mull over during an all-morning breakfast of a couple pots of coffee, some bacon, some eggs in the skillet and a good, contemplative sit with the quiet, with the steam and with the cooked fat in the air.
These are men with perpetual travails, on eternal journeys, through wind, rain, snow, drought and extreme heat. Parr wrote a song entitled, "My Wife Left Me," in which he sings, "Woke up this morning, with nothing on my mind/Simply tell me Lord, what it is that I done wrong," but many of his songs could bear the same title or a variant of it. He could ask the same questions again and again, but that's not the right way to waste away. One shouldn't wallow, but he should want to feel the bites. He should keep wanting to consider all the snow-jobbing and railroading that's been done over that bacon and those eggs and carry on, as vital and shaky as ever.
*Essay originally published January, 2013