Now with a discography of fourteen albums, Charlie Parr is a bonafide contemporary bluesman who refuses to wallow in the downs he encounters. In fact, he uses the songs on Dog to cauterize the psychic wounds and reveal the upside of confronting his adversities.
The unified presence of his accompanists no doubt allowed Parr to produce this album himself with no adverse effects from his multitasking. Even an obvious solo track like “HoBo,” based on an merrily circular acoustic guitar figure, has its purpose and Parr likewise struts his stuff on the insinuating title song. Meanwhile, he’s judicious in parceling out the decoration over these ten new original songs that comprise the album.
An expression of courage fortified by the high-stepping rhythm percussionist Mikkel Beckman and bassist Liz Draper impart to “LowDown,” that track further belies its title with the chugging of Dave Hundreiser’s jawharp. Parr confronts his demons with equal resolve and focus in playing guitar in tandem with Jeff Mitchell during “Sometimes I’m Alright,” while his wry accounting of his state of mind during “I Ain’t Dead Yet” speaks volumes about the strength he finds in the music he writes and records.
In his own nimble way, Tom Herbes juggles the responsibilities of engineering, mixing and mastering here. In so doing, he injects Dog with a continuity that’s worth that diligent, versatile effort; he captures and preserves the warmth of the close quarters pictured in the photo on the back cover of the CD. There’s an intimacy emanating from this album that turns songs such as “Rich Food and Easy living” into personal statements; in large part because arrangements like that or “Salt Water”’s remain uncluttered.
Rather than run from the hellhound(s) on his trail, Parr dares them to race him and he proves the combination of comfort and speed makes for potent fuel. The personal fortitude he derives from his singing, playing and collaborating resonates throughout in a way that might sound spooky if the performances didn’t offer such palpable comfort to the listener as well as Parr himself. As a result, closing the album with the jolly likes of the “Peaceful Valley” is a magnanimous gesture all around.