CD Reviews: Pickin' on Charlie Parr, the Gallows and Ryan Adams

Charlie Parr is nothing if not prolific. Sure, he may be one of the most talented musicians to ever come out of the Twin Ports -- but can you believe he's already releasing a new album?...

Charlie Parr is nothing if not prolific. Sure, he may be one of the most talented musicians to ever come out of the Twin Ports -- but can you believe he's already releasing a new album?

Coming just months after he dropped the live album "Backslider," Parr is back with his sixth LP, "Jubilee," and -- let's not mince words -- his most enduring set yet.

Instead of just relying on his laurels -- like, say, Ryan Adams (which I'll get to) -- Parr has been working hard to incorporate more musicians (and, as a result of this, more instruments) into his sound.

While not a total departure by any means, "Jubilee" is simply the sound of a workhorse expanding his sound.

Things start out brightly with the title track, a duet with his wife, Emily. Even upon first listen, you come to the conclusion that these two should do a lot more work together down the road. One just has to ask: "How can they squeeze so much talent into one little house?"


But the fun doesn't stop there. There are at least two more collabs to get all the local boys and girls screaming.

First up is "Just Like Today," which features Dave Simonett, frontman of the nationally celebrated Trampled by Turtles, on guitar and harmony vocals. They work well together, very well. (Keep that in mind in case TBT breaks up and you think your world is coming to an end....)

The other is the ominous "Twenty-Nine." Here Parr is joined by If Thousands' Christian McShane, who plays -- at least according to the liner notes -- a "cello-like object." Whatever it is, it adds a layer of melancholy to an already-dreary tune.

The highlights for this reviewer, though, are the urgent, foot-stompin' Triple Crown of "You Can't Win," "V8 Ford Blues" and "Jesus on the Mainline."

When Parr and washboard aficionado Mikkel Beckmen get together to record in Dave Hundrieser's garage -- no joke -- there is sweet, sweet music to be made.

"Jubilee" is available now. To catch up with the workaholic (and for some free MP3s to sample), visit .


Apparently in an effort to out-Duluth Charlie Parr's let's-go-make-a-masterpiece-in-a-garage recording process, the Gallows' latest is a concept album about Park Point's rabbit population.


"Cross the Bridge" opens magnificently with "I Want to Go Out," Nathan Starke's ploy to get Jimmy Buffett to cry himself to sleep. The track's sunny disposition, Caribbean-style drumming and Joey Flynn's spot-on scratchboard efficacy will, in no time, have you reaching for a margarita ... you know what? This is an album for kids and adults alike, so it will have you reaching for an Icee in no time.

Not to be outdone, the Gallows' other primary songwriter, Marc Gartman, comes out swinging on track two. The winning "Greedy Hands and Mischief Eyes" takes you out of the often pessimistic world of indie rock and transports you to a place only kids understand.

This back and forth goes on throughout the album until track 10, which is, presumably, bassist/keyboardist Karl Anderson's first foray into writing for a bunny-hoppin' rock opera. The track, "Dog a Dog Dog," is pretty much the album's only "dark hour." It lacks the sunshine and exuberant spirit of the Gartman and Starke tracks. (It's OK, though ... kids deserve to cry every once in awhile.)

Another Parr parallel is the fact that "Cross the Bridge" comes just months after the group's landmark debut, "Sing Eric Sommer."

It's hard to say if this album was a result of the group recording its heartwarming rendition of "Rainbow Connection" for the Pearl Swanson benefit album "Treasure Chest," but, like that track, this album works brilliantly. And, more than that, it's a great way to introduce any children you know to music that doesn't make adults scream.

The Gallows will perform "Cross the Bridge" in its entirety at 8 p.m. Friday at the album's Beaner's Central release show. Cost is $5. Accompanying the band will be a slideshow consisting of images drawn by 6-year-old Abby Thielke. The band is trying to secure the funds to release the entire project as a book/CD combo. For details, see .


At long last,* Ryan Adams is releasing more music out into the world.


Backed again by the terrific Cardinals, "Easy Tiger" has Adams continuing down his tried-and-true amalgam of the best rock 'n' roll and C&W have to offer.

The album opens with the unassuming "Goodnight Rose," which -- in all honesty -- could really be from any of Adams' numerous back releases. It's terrific, but nothing new. (I find it difficult to compare great musicians to anyone but themselves. I could have easily written "Well, it's a thousand times better than 98 percent of everything else out there" -- but that wouldn't be fair, would it?)

One of the album's surprising highlights is the Sheryl Crow duet, "Two." While she is relegated to nothing more than simple backing vocals, her subtle cues work wonders within the Adams universe.

It may not be his most innovative body of work, but, man, doesn't it all go down so smoothly. Sounding as if he sat in on Charlie Parr and the Gallows' recent recording sessions, "Pearls on a String" might be what would happen if those two Duluth favorites combined forces.

Let's just say it would

definitely work in any of the Twin Ports' beloved haunts.

Even the album's weakest tracks, like the pointless, repetitive "Halloweenhead," start to grow on you. How could this be? Adams could record the sound of himself brushing his teeth in the morning and he'd still sell thousands of records.

This man is unstoppable -- and brilliant. So unbelievably brilliant.


As The Onion's A.V. Club recently put it, sometimes it's OK not to reinvent yourself.

*Actually, it's only been about a year and a half since "29." Like today's other "subjects," Adams is one of the nation's most prolific and -- this is key -- consistent entertainers.

"Easy Tiger" will be released Tuesday. For more, visit .

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