CHARLIE PARR

 

Rooster lyrics

Rooster session

Those songs on Rooster, most of them were written around the time that most of King Earl was written, which was over a period of time from about 1997-2004. I had tried to write a short story which had turned into a short novel and I passed it to a friend who was also a very good writer and an honest man and he told me that it wasn’t very good although it had its moments. So I took those moments and made songs out of them. “Cheap Wine”, “Gone”, “Public Record Rag”, “Samuel Grady”, “Dead Cat on the Line”, and “One Eyed-Jack” are all from that bad little book, which might explain why they all feel related, at least to me. The little book focused in on a neighborhood and a pretty unsavory shut-in named Eddie who narrates the action from his window, making up a good part of the story that he can’t really see but feels qualified to make conjectures about. So it’s a series of digressions that start from a simple event but by the end of the story you’re left kind of wondering if the initial event wasn’t the only real thing in the whole story. Anyway it was a bad idea and the digressions ended up being better songs in any case.

My favorite song on the record is “Bethlehem” and that had to do with a dream (nightmare) I had about my Dad after he’d passed on. When I woke up, trying to remember the dream and figure it out (all I can see from it now is my Dad lying in a giant kidney-shaped pan in a hospital corridor and me yelling up and down the halls for help but there was no one around) for some reason I started thinking about Herod. I thought about what kind of horror it must be for any parent in any time to lose a child because of some greed for power or money or nonsense like that. Then the song showed up.

The traditional songs on the record are “Samson & Delilah”, taken from both Blind Willie Johnson (who was arrested for singing it in front of a local government building) and Reverend Gary Davis; and “Wild Bill Jones”, an old murder ballad that was covered by the great Dock Boggs and had a powerful effect on me and my relationship to the banjo.

It was a great time, recording this record. Tom Herbers brought up all sorts of cool old gear including the largest ribbon mic that ever lived, we had a bunch of good friends stop by including Molly Maher and Dave Carroll, Karl Anderson played bass and my friend Christian McShane brought a thing called a “Ukelin” over, which we decided must be satan’s favorite instrument (at least his particular one, which made us all cringe). Mikkel and I lined up behind the giant microphone and we just played, like we always played, and made it work. Not much changes around here.

Bethlehem lyrics

1928 lyrics

One Eyed Jack lyrics

Gone lyrics

Dead Cat on the Line lyrics

Ellen Mayhem lyrics

Cheap Wine lyrics

Public Record Rag lyrics

Samuel Grady lyrics
Rooster session

Session photos by Jake Larson.

Links:
• Download Rooster on Bandcamp
An oral history of Rooster
Charlie Parr's New Weird America (City Pages)
• Lawrence.com The Turnpike podcast