LIVE REVIEW: Charlie Parr, Jerry Joseph @ The Cluny 2, Newcastle (11.05.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Initially, Jerry Joseph came off as one of the many, many worthy-but-dull singer songwriters that clog up the Americana scene, but he won me over with a ragged charm, a frank and funny way of telling stories – and man, does he have stories! – and a heartfelt, earnest power (especially in songs like White Dirt). I still probably wouldn’t sit down with a Jerry Joseph album but I enjoyed the time in his company.

Despite being a Charlie Parr fan back as far as his Black Twig Pickers collaboration album more than a decade ago, I’ve never managed to catch him live. It should go without saying he was everything I hoped he’d be. He kicked off with a version of I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground, immediately placing one workboot in the Harry Smith world of folk-blues, and that is a big part of what Parr is about. But his other boot is firmly in a more modern country milieu (echoes of Steve Earle or Willy Vlautin) heard in his raw (although often quite funny) songs about dead end jobs, lives gone awry and trying to be a decent man in trying times. On top of all that, his guitar playing is, frankly, fucking astonishing, flowing like silver, so accomplished that – if he had another boot – he deserves to be considered alongside the likes of John Fahey, Leo Kottke and the rest.

But more than that heady mix, he’s very much his own man. Leaning heavily on his recent, magnificent Last Of The Better Days Ahead (released appropriately enough on the revitalised Smithsonian Folkways label), we get gems like 817 Oakland Avenue’s plea for love and the bleak account of a working stiff in Everyday Opus. He marries his obvious shyness and diffidence to a sardonic, fatalistic wit in the between-song chat  (stories of penitentiary museum gift shops, living in his ex-wife’s attic, why his mum doesn’t like some of his songs) in a really warm disarming way and for all the bleakness in many of his songs, he has a cautiously optimistic, deeply human soul that radiates out of him. It’s clear the busy crowd loved  the bones of him as he finished with a magisterial, acapella Ain’t No Grave, all three boots stomping up a storm.

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