Where there’s smoke there’s fire. Where there’s fire there’s light, comfort, and warmth. Where’s there’s comfort and warmth, there can often be found supper – nourishment, sustenance for the long road ahead. On “Country Supper,” Robert Connely Farr’s new album release, you’re going to be pleased to find all that deep southern blues will leave you warm all over and happy you stayed for the music and company late into the night.
Robert Connely Farr’s bio will tell you that he grew up in Bolton, MS, famed, as I am sure you’ll know, for the legendary Charley Patton & The Mississippi Sheiks. Singer- songwriter, Farr has been diving deep into the Bentonia Style of the Delta Blues since 2017, a style of blues made world renown by the legendary Skip James. Often characterised by an altered tuning, typically to a minor chord or string arrangement, it allows a player to use right hand thumb and fore-finger in patterns that create a dense rhythmic pulse beneath the singer’s often mournful, haunting, and poetic lyrics.
Moreover, combined with the singer’s tonality and the unusual minor sound emanating from the guitar, the songs often prove to be deeply reflective, melancholic portraits of sorrows lived through and overcome. Jimmy “Duck” Holmes is the living embodiment of this style, and he can be found at the historic juke joint – the Blue Front Café. When Farr is back home in Mississippi he can also be found there, studying and immersing himself in the rich tradition and lasting legacy of this form of blues performance and song writing.
Farr lives now in Vancouver, BC, performing and recording. His previous record, “Dirty South Blues,” was nominated for a Maple Blues Award in 2019, for Songwriter of the Year, and New Artist of the Year. “Country Supper” will surely be recognized in a similar fashion. It is an album that pays tribute to a localized stylistic approach to blues guitar, yet somehow manages to sound and feel fresh; as if the songs, the guitar tones and the overall sound of the band was newly minted and quite literally just discovered. Of the sixteen tracks, nine are Farr originals, interspersed with tributes to the torchbearers of Bentonia delta blues.
From the opening track, Farr builds slowly, methodically, laying down a thick saucy, oversaturated, overdriven, over heated guitar groan accompanied by a brash four on the floor groove, that just keeps pulling you in and washing over you like a slow smile and mama’s home cooking. It’s hard to escape the guitar work on this album, every note is so intense and yet there are few, if hardly any big solo moments, or flourishes of lightning speed licks and bends or swoops or dives, expected from more rock laced blues. This is more sultry, hot and sweaty.
Opening with Skip James’ “Cypress Grove,” Farr lets you know right from the beginning where he intends to go and where he wants you to stay. The ominous chords of “Cypress Grove” give way to “Girl In The Holler;” bring the simmering to a boil, to make sure the spices get fully mixed in with the broth. From here Farr follows his instincts, bringing in some of his own material, “Water’s Rising,” and “Cadillac Problems,” keeping it pure and authentic. That’s the thing here, Farr is not only following a style – he is becoming it! Or is it becoming him?
In “I Ain’t Dying,” Farr takes you deep into the blues of this album, the inner power he is reaching for, the healing that music always seems to bring to the player and the listener. On “Gimme Yo Money,” the twelfth track, the sound changes, using acoustic guitar and vocals to keep the pull of the writing and stories going, adding another dimension to establish the feel of the album. In fact, this album is a feast – all fixings plus the gravy.
This form of blues stands most assuredly on its own, with something fascinatingly hypnotic and alluring that keeps you entranced throughout. There never seems to be a turnaround, or a dominant 7th to bring you home; it just keeps rolling on. It gets in your blood and won’t let you go. Joined by Jon Wood (guitar), Tom Hillifer (bass), and Jay Bundy Johnson (drums), Farr has crafted powerful set of songs which deserves to heard. Lovers of blues are going to find deep satisfaction in this set of songs. Farr sets the bar high with both his singing and his guitar, but it’s the songs that keep ringing over again in your ears that will bring you back to the turntable.
Find more at: https://www.robertconnelyfarr.com/
Photo credit: R.D. Cane