CHARLIE PARR

 

Barnswallow Lyrics

session photo

All of the best experiences I’ve had with recording have included a feeling that I’ve kind of ‘moved into’ whatever space I’m recording in, I have my stuff there, people I know and trust are there with me, we bring food and try and get to know our new neighborhood. It helps to become comfortable and I think the relaxed atmosphere of feeling like you’re at home shows in the record. For Barnswallow, Tom Herbers, Mikkel Beckmen, Dave Hundrieser and I moved into the Winona Arts Center, a small former church in a quiet part of Winona, just down the street from where Joe Tadie lived and around the corner from Jamie Harper’s garage where he created his amazing salvaged medium artwork. We all had a great walk around downtown and along the levee to the co-op where we got some supplies and then went back to the arts center and recorded the entire record in the space of about a day and a half. It was kind of a let-down after feeling so happy and comfortable in my new town, packing up all the stuff we’d just unpacked and noticing that we hadn’t even finished our food. But the record sounds like home to me now, it sounds familiar and feels a lot like that walk through quiet streets with my dearest friends.

Nowhere Fast lyrics

Nowhere … Fast
I left my dear old parents / and started out on the road
Just like Ramblin’ Robin / and the tramps who went before
I caught a freight for the west / just outside of my hometown
With a backpack and a bedroll / and swore I’d never hop back down
Anywhere but here, anywhere but here
Baptized out on the road
Anywhere but here

When I made to jump off the train / my legs were numb and stiff
They buckled when I hit the ground / and I lit down in a ditch
I hung out with some rough folks / we went in on a scam
But the blame was mine when the cops came / and the jailhouse my new home
Anywhere but here, anywhere but here
Baptized out on the road
Anywhere but here

I got out in the winter / got told to leave Colorado Springs
With a thin coat and broken boots / I headed north on up the range
Bummin’ around Montana / I thumbed all the way to Missou
Got drunk down by the Top Hat / they said I’d better push on through
Anywhere but here, anywhere but here
Baptized out on the road
Anywhere but here

This ain’t the life I want / I’m telling you the truth
Gonna get my things together / and get on back to Duluth
Anywhere but here, anywhere but here
Baptized out on the road
Anywhere but here


My Wife Left Me lyrics

My Wife Left Me
My wife left me, threw my out of our home
My soul is sick and dying Lord
Outside the only home I’ve known
Stumble through the yard to where the weeds are deep
My soul is sick and dying Lord
Now where am I gonna sleep
Lay me down in the tallgrass the wet soil to my side
My soul is sick and dying Lord
I believe my time is nigh
My wife left me but I’m the one who’s got to leave
My soul is sick and dying Lord
I ain’t got nowhere to live
Take me back take me back you’re the only one I’ve ever loved
My soul is sick and dying Lord
And I believe I’ve been misled
I woke up this morning with nothing on my mind
Except please tell me Lord
What is it I done wrong


Motorcycle Blues lyrics

Motorcycle Blues
I wanna have me a motorcycle to take me on down the road
A rat-bike made of Harley parts or a Norton Commando
Then meet me on the highway we’ll take another run on down
That final stretch of black-top before the gravel takes back the ground

Once I saw the Bat-Mobile in a Las Vegas casino museum And I asked the
man could I drive it and he said well you see son
This car ain’t got no works it was built just for show
Ain’t that just like life that’s the way a lot of us go
Then meet me on the highway we’ll take another run on down
That final stretch of black-top before the gravel takes back the ground

I wanna be like Big Daddy Garlitz in a blown GTO on I-90
In the early morning sunlight with no one on the road but me
Then meet me on the highway we’ll take another run on down
That final stretch of black-top before the gravel takes back the ground

I wanna have me a motorcycle to take me on down the road
A rat-bike made of Harley parts or a Norton Commando
Then meet me on the highway we’ll take another run on down
That final stretch of black-top before the gravel takes back the ground


Badger lyrics

Groundhog Day Blues lyrics

Groundhog Day Blues
That mailman ain’t no friend to me, comes to my house everyday at three
That’s when he knows I’m not home, and my wife is there all alone
No the mailman ain’t no friend to me at all
Every single day it’s the same damn thing about 3:00 the bell begins to ring
“Here’s a package can you sign” “Come on in so I can find a pen”
No the mailman ain’t no friend of mine at all
Now it’s Thursday I’m off at noon, boss cut the shift says y’all go home
Maybe I’ll just see who’s around, that mail truck’s out in front of my lawn
No that mailman ain’t no friend to me at all
Well Stillwater sure ain’t my style but I’m gonna have to stay here a little while
I was just trying to blow up his truck but I blew up the house, just my luck
That mailman weren’t no friend to me at all


Henry Goes to the Bank lyrics

Henry Goes to the Bank
Henry got his check on Thursday and used his lunch hour to go uptown
Henry got his check on Thursday and was never seen again
His job called Friday morning but the machine said he was out
His job called Friday morning his co-workers went “hmmm”
Henry was a quiet guy the worker’s talked about his life
Henry was a quiet guy by Tuesday they’d bet he killed his wife
Nobody at work knew him well, what he was hiding all this time
Nobody at work knew him well, that he was capable of such a crime
And now he was on the loose, on some kind of killing spree
And now he’s on the loose, why was someone like that allowed to go free
They never liked him anyway he was creepy in those brown pants
They never liked him anyway he never showed at the office dance
He’s some kind of radical probably in the militia up north
He’s some kind of radical his kind are all trying to start a war
At the end of the month the boss packs up Henry’s desk
At the end of the month he tossed his coffee cup in the trash


True Friends lyrics

True Friends
Here’s a little thing about Mag and Stan hauling down the road in the winter time
Riding on their thumbs but walking most of the way
Stan used to hop trains but Mag’s afraid so they get their traveling done another way
Just wanna get down south to where it’s warm
True friends, true friends are hard to find
To get one you gotta be one
And then they’ll always be around

An old guy stops in a beat-up ford and asks how far did they wanna go
And Stan says we’re going all the way to the end
This old guy he’s lost his wife and lost his grip on the rest of his life
Just drives around now listening to the radio
True friends, true friends are hard to find
To get one you gotta be one
And then they’ll always be around

Now it’s 4 days on the road in that rusty ride and 3 nights sleeping out on the side
Eating roadstand fruit, coffee and refried beans
When they reach the gulf they all lay on the beach and soak up the sun and get used to the heat
Talkin about how cold it is up in I. Falls
True friends, true friends are hard to find
To get one you gotta be one
And then they’ll always be around

There ain’t no end to their family, their web covers the whole country
Maybe it ain’t true that we have to be alone
Maybe they’ll just drive around pickin’ folks up, being yr friend when yr down on yr luck
Maybe there’s a car big enough for us all
True friends, true friends are hard to find
To get one you gotta be one
And then they’ll always be around


Jesus Is A Hobo lyrics

Song notes

“Nowhere … Fast” started out as a serious attempt to write a song about a friend of mine and turned into a scramble that was twice as long as this version. Now it’s a jumble and seems to make less sense, but at least it doesn’t last so long.

“My Wife Left Me” isn’t really about me. I think it’s got something to do with Raymond Carver.

“Motorcycle Blues” is for Donn, and Ziggy, and Dallas, and my own young self when I was interested in nothing but music and cars (MoPar and Ford’s of the ‘60’s – my most glorious moment being the short-lived owner of a ’68 Ford XL fastback with a 390 that had been punched out to about 402 and got about 4 mpg but could really haul ass). Now days I drive slow … hauling my ass in a more stately manner.

“Badger” is just a picture. A shot of my Dad when he didn’t know anyone was looking, when he was just himself, staring off over the fields behind our house or gazing into a fire of leaves in the yard.

“Groundhog Day Blues” is another attempt at doing junk-rag. Our mailman would never do this kind of thing. Mikkel played a butter-heater from a vintage fridge on this.

“Henry Goes to the Bank” has already been dismissed by Emily as ‘one of the worst songs I ever wrote’ … that list gets longer and longer … anyway, she’s probably right, but just to clear up her impression of the song – it’s not about Henry. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just got gossipy co-workers.

“True Friends” is for Dave, Mikkel, Tom, Jamie, Ed and Joe and walking around Winona one evening feeling like I did when I was 14 walking around Austin with my friends. And for that old fellow somewhere in Alabama who gave me some really good tomatoes at a truck stop when I was completely alone.

“Jesus is a Hobo” is for Joe … and Kierkegaard. And Charlie, Backtrack, Westside, Patch, Captain Tony, Commando, Viper, Whisky, Brother John, Tiny, Eugene, Bill, Brad … everybody I missed (miss).

Folk Songs

Jimmy Bell - I first heard this song from Dave Ray. He heard the song from a Cat Iron record and in true Dave Ray style made the song entirely his own. The last time I heard him play it was at the Brewhouse in Duluth in what turned out to be the last time he would ever play there. He started the song out and played it all the way through, then he kind of lifted off into improv-land for awhile. It was transcendent. I lost track of time, my beer got warm, I just sat there staring right through him while he played. Suddenly he was back at Jimmy Bell, and he played the song again, all the way through. It may have been an hour, or maybe just 10 minutes, but it was amazing. I love the Cat Iron version, that whole record is great, but Dave Ray owned every note he played and probably never played the song the same way twice. I really learned a lot from just watching him over the years that I was lucky enough to be able to see him play. The most important thing I learned was to not try and play like Cat Iron, or Charlie Patton, or John Fahey, or Dave Ray. My version of Jimmy Bell is weak, I know that, but it’s mine.

Rattlesnake - Spider John Koerner is my favorite musician. I used to go to the Viking Bar to see him play every Sunday night for a while there, sometimes it was just a few of us, sometimes a good rowdy crowd singing along and laughing at John’s jokes. No matter which kind of night it was, John played the way he played and told the jokes he told and it was always great. When I got to the point where someone asked me to make some goals for a ‘music career’ I scoffed at that and said that if I could ever do what Spider John does, even get close, then my goals were realized. That’s all. I’m still working on it, and fortunately John’s still at it. I got to sing along with him at Palmer’s on Rattlesnake, and that’s good enough for a career for me. Rattlesnake’s old, I don’t know much more than that. John said to me lately that it’s all of ours, a real folk song. If he said it, then I believe it. It’s a true song, that’s for sure “I been living in the bottom all my life, I ain’t done nothing but bite”.

group photo

Photos by Jamie Harper (session) and Jenn Baechle (group).

Links:
• Download Barnswallow on Bandcamp
• "Motorcycle Blues" video (89.3 The Current, Caravan Du Nord)
• "True Friends" video (MN Music Coalition, Caravan Du Nord)
• "Badger" video (Violitionist session)
• "Charlie Parr Discusses Barnswallow" interview (Uprooted Music Revue blog [repost])
• Stream "Barnswallow" (instrumental) on Bird Songs compilation.
Charlie Parr live at the Filling Station (Live from the Divide)