by Nick Davis
A long-lost piece of Montana music history will find a new audience in the spring of 2014, thanks to a contemporary crowd-sourcing project. Aaron Parrett’s 1996 album The Sinners was actually recorded in Athens, Ga., but the songs were born on the long road between Athens and the ghost town of Rimini, Mont., where Parrett, a recent University of Montana graduate, was building a log cabin in the early 1990s.
Parrett scraped together enough funds to produce a few hundred copies of The Sinners on CD. Despite its extremely limited release, the album—a stripped-down marriage of sharp songwriting and old-school country picking—became somewhat of a cult classic, gaining favor with other musicians and critics alike. The CD eventually sold out but by then Parrett, who roamed the Missoula music scene in the late 90s and early 00s as a member of several ensembles (most notably Cold Beans and Bacon and The Blue Mountain Boys), had moved on to other bands and other projects.
Local documentary filmmaker (and co-founder of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival) Doug Hawes-Davis has used Parrett’s music in several films, and he also happens to be a vinyl hound. So when Parrett told him that he had to go on eBay to buy a copy of his own record, Hawes-Davis suggested he start a Kickstarter campaign to fund the re-release of the record as an LP.
Though he had doubts about both the demand for vinyl and the process of remastering a CD to an LP, Parrett launched the project on Kickstarter in early October of this year and met the $5,700 goal in roughly two weeks. He’s planning on printing 500 copies of the record, with 200 of them enclosed in a custom letterpress jacket designed and produced by renowned San Francisco artist Peter Koch—who, as the founder of early-'70s Missoula institutions Montana Gothic and the Black Stone Press, has his own rich local history.
As of now, Parrett has no plans for a general release, so the music is available only to those who pledge to the Kickstarter campaign. Options there range from a $10 contribution that nets a digital download of The Sinners, to a $1,500 pledge that comes with, among other perks, the limited-edition letterpress release and a live show by Parrett (as of press time, he’s got at least one such gig booked). The LP and the limited-edition LP are available at pledge levels of $50 and $100, respectively.
“I think of it as an art project,” says Parrett. “I’m not doing [Kickstarter] to make money, I’m doing it to make sure I don’t lose money. And Peter’s work is very valuable, often selling for thousands of dollars. So there’s a good chance the limited edition will be worth significantly more than what it takes to get one through the campaign.”
Parrett anticipates a March date for the re-release of The Sinners. The Kickstarter campaign ends on Tuesday, November 19, and can be found here.