Sunday, January 31, 2021

Robert Connely Farr - Country Supper

There’s a cinematic aspect to this album from Mississippi-born, Vancouver-based Robert Connely Farr.  Listening to a track like ‘Girl In The Holler’, with Farr’s fuzzy, warped guitar playing out over booming drums, the image that springs to mind is of a car cruising down a two-lane blacktop in the silent night, its headlamps the only source of light.  Think Springsteen’s stripped-down Nebraska for the atmosphere – but located way down South, in Farr’s Mississippi homeland.
There’s an air of early, raw Black Keys to the rough and tumble sound of ‘Girl In The Holler’, which makes sense given their devotion to North Mississippi hill country sounds.  But on other tracks Farr delves way deeper for a bleak and spooky country blues vibe.  The opening ‘Cypress
No, not John Goodman in The Big Lebowski - it's Robert Connely Farr!
Grove’ features prickly, fuzzy guitar, over doomy, sonorous bass from Tom Hillifer and a funeral marching beat from drummer Jay Bundy Johnson, to accompany Farr’s controlled moan of a vocal.  On ‘Water’s Rising’, for example, Farr offers up patient, steely guitar over a beat like a dripping tap, while his old-fashioned vocal isn’t especially bluesy but remains atmospheric.  Here the sense is less of cruising down a highway than of meandering along, maybe even horse drawn, on a country lane where time has stopped.
The mode of transport changes on ‘Train Train’, but while this may be drawn from the same ancient well as Junior Parker’s ‘Mystery Train’ it’s of a much darker hue, evoking a slow train to nowhere, all slow beat and down-low blues, with the guitar non-existent at first.  I’m thinking to myself, if the Coen Brothers had worked a train into Barton Fink at some point, this is what it would be like.
Farr, who has been mentored by Bentonia blues magus Jimmy ‘Duck’ Holmes, knows what he’s doing in this eerie terrain.  But in truth, rather too many of the sixteen tracks on Country Supper go down this lonesome, melancholy road.  Thankfully though, Farr doesn’t let it become a cul de sac.  ‘I Ain’t Dying’ and ‘If It Was Up To Me’ are Americana-tinged, like Steve Earle albeit still in a reflective mode, and both offer some extra ingredients.  The former pitches in a flurry of bright guitar before petering out somewhat.  But the latter benefits from more structure and direction, as well as a good melody and some sprinklings of fairy dust guitar.  ‘Lately’ has a similar feel, but with some acoustic guitar strumming laying down a warmer foundation.
In a different vein, ‘All Good’ is scarcely what you’d call danceable, but it is more nimble rhythmically, and closes with a few turns of an appealing guitar figure.  Better still, on the uptempo ‘Bad Bad Feeling’ the trio carve out a deep and satisfying groove, and it feels liberating when Farr cuts loose a bit – not once but twice – on guitar.
The album closes with a couple of subtly different numbers.  ‘Bad Whiskey’, flavoured by slow strumming and weeping slide (or is it pedal steel?) is a sensitive, elegiac country-ish tune with echoes of Drive-By Truckers. Then the short and dark ‘I Know I Been Changed’ brings down the curtain with a groaning, reverb-heavy a capella intro, easing in a gospel-ish melody over drum’n’bass accompaniment, before Farr adds another dimension with some ringing guitar work.
If what you’re after is good-time R’n’B, fit for an evening of boozy hip-shakin’ with the missus, then I would venture that Country Supper is not for you.  But if you want to saddle up for a long journey deep into the Mississippi blues, then Robert Connely Farr may be just the escort you need.

Country Supper is out now, and you can buy it here.

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