Roots and bluegrass in store at Oak CenterAn evening of roots followed by an afternoon of bluegrass is in store — at Oak Center General Store.
An evening of roots followed by an afternoon of bluegrass is in store — at Oak Center General Store.
Minnesota folk favorite Charlie Parr returns to play Saturday Dec. 1, and the bluegrass quintet Monroe Crossing performs Sunday Dec. 2.
Currently in the midst of the music season, Oak Center’s weekend entertainment runs from October to April and is offered through the Folk Forum – a community outreach program of concerts and forum meetings.
The cabin-like atmosphere of the 90-year-old community hall has no bells or whistles. But the charming ambiance adds to the powerful performances with so much musical variety there seems to be a genre to fit everyone’s taste, promoters said.
Tickets for any show are sold in advance, at the door or through the mail. They range from $15 regular price to $5 for low-income. Folk Forum will accept what you can afford.
Parr and Monroe Crossing are iconic figures in their specific fields and have proved to be the most popular favorites of Oak Center’s annual lineup.
“They are probably one of the most oversold concerts we have,” said Steve Schwen of Oak Center General Store, “so get your tickets early.”
Many people play roots music, but few modern musicians live those roots like Charlie Parr does. His heartfelt and plaintive original folk blues and traditional spirituals don't strive for authenticity; they are authentic.
It's the music of a self-taught guitarist and banjo player who grew up without a television but instead with his dad's recordings of America's musical founding fathers, including Charley Patton and Lightnin' Hopkins, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly.
With his long scraggly hair, father-time beard, thrift-store workingman's flannel and jeans and throaty voice, Parr looks and sounds like he would have fit right into Harry Smith's "Anthology of American Folk Music."
Parr uses three instruments, plus his stomping foot. He got an 1890 banjo the first time he heard Dock Boggs.
"I don't do claw hammer, I don't do Scruggs-style. It's just a version of me trying to play like Dock Boggs, I guess," Parr said.
He has two Nationals, a 12-string and a Resonator, which became an obsession when Parr saw a picture of Son House playing one.
" I went into debt to buy it," he said. "Nationals are fun because they are as much mechanical as instrumental; you can take them apart and put them back together again.”
Parr has eight albums, recording in warehouses, garages, basements and storefronts.
To many, he is considered a regional artist.
"From Cleveland to Seattle and down to San Francisco and back is my area," he said, though the focus is unquestionably Minnesota and the upper Midwest.
Monroe Crossing brings “A Bluegrass Christmas with Monroe Crossing” to the Oak Center.
The quintet offers a blend of classic bluegrass, bluegrass gospel and heartfelt originals. The members’ harmonies, razor sharp arrangements and on-stage rapport make them audience favorite, Schwen said.
The group is touring in support of a new CD, “The Road Has No End.” The group’s twelfth release features the songwriting talents of band members Derek Johnson, Mark Anderson and Lisa Fuglie.
While the evening’s program will include songs from this latest recording, “A Bluegrass Christmas with Monroe Crossing” prominently features selections from their seasonal sampler “The Happy Holidays.”
Old familiar carols such as “Silver Bells,” “Holly Jolly Christmas,” and “Up on the Housetop” get a warm bluegrass feel from the banjo, fiddle and mandolin. The audience likely will hear many of seasonal favorites such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” “Angels We Have Heard On High” and a few holiday surprises too.
Monroe Crossing plays 125 shows a year at major venues across the Midwest. The band was a 2007 inductee into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame.
Who: Charlie Parr
When: 8 p.m. Saturday Dec 1.
Who: Monroe Crossing
When: 3 p.m. Sunday Dec. 2.
Where: Oak Center General Store, Highway 63, rural Lake City
Cost: $5-$15 based on ability to pay
More info: 507-753-2080 or www.oakcentergeneralstore.com