archive review originally posted on the losing today site c.2003
CRIMINALS AND SINNERS
Well hold my humble heart, its nice to know that amid all the chaos, greed and misery in our world today that you can shut your door, get your feet up and bang this little feller into the CD player and escape the decay and just loose yourself.
‘Criminals and Sinners’ is a certified, 100% rock solid humdinger of a gem, those of a certain disposition and a welcoming understanding of traditional folk, mountain music and the delta blues will simply crumble with thanks to whoever up there that out there in the mad world someone still plays like this.
Mr Parr originally from Austin, can be found these days plying his trade in Duluth, Minnesota. Often compared to Mississippi John Hurt, throughout ‘Criminals and Sinners’ it easy to see why as his take on the blues does belie an uplifting text, in fact if you listen closely to the opening track ‘Asa Jones Blues’ you will find the same washboard blues like dynamic that Scouse urchins the Zutons are admirably peddling to an unsuspecting pop world at the moment. Unlike most blues / folk albums this actually rocks in places, take for instance the furiously rattling ragtime number ‘Lowdown’ or the muscularly fulsome sound of ‘Troubled bout my mother’.
Elsewhere your certain that he’s sure watched a lot of prison trains rumble past in his time while walking the same soulful journey to man’s desperate inner self, briefly found pausing at the same cross roads as once passed Robert Johnson, who swapped his soul for a dusty parchment with the blues template written upon it in blood. And there at those lonely crossings talked old times with the ghosts of Carl Perkins and John Fahey, the latter an evident influence, you can feel the presence filtering spectral like in the roots of every track especially on the gritty rolling canvas of ‘I wonder how long till I can change my clothes’. But then this isn’t an album paying respects to the dead, tracks like ‘Song for Lauren B’ and ‘Henry Young’s Body’ galvanize a real homely Dylan perspective, both replete with cascading rustic chords, the latter haunted by an exquisitely heart wrenching harmonica that just humbles you to the core, while on the springing hoedown of ‘Going up the country’ you’d swear your life away that Ry Cooder had sneaked in on the session via the back door.
‘Criminals and Sinners’ is simply timeless, frozen in a purist paradise. Why waste your time reading what I think just get out there and buy the damn thing.