Thursday, December 7, 2023

Robert Connely Farr - Pandora Sessions

We’re talking down and dirty, people.  And I don’t mean some kind of greasy boogie.  I mean a corner of some juke joint you’ve stumbled into after losing your way in the dark, and losing your boots too, god knows how; and there's no floorboards and you can feel the dust messing up the soles of your feet; and there’s some guy over there with a guitar groaning like he needs a doctor. That kind of down and dirty.  And yeah, that fella with the battered six-string may well be Mississippi-born Robert Connely Farr.
I mean, there is a groove to the cheerfully titled opener ‘Everybody’s Dyin (Oh Lord I’m Getting Old)’, but it’s a primitive sounding thing, chugging and rattling and wheezing along while Farr growls his despair until it eventually expires.  And I’ve described Farr’s guitar sound as “warped” before, when reviewing his previous album Shake It, but it’s still a good fit for the bent and
Robert Connely Farr and Jay Bundy Johnson - sharp dressed men
Pic by Tyler McLeod
twisted notes that struggle to mesh with the dragging rhythm laid down by Jay Bundy Johnson on ‘Prowler’, while Farr drawls spooky musings about heading to Chattanooga and Vicksburg.
These guys’ modus operandi is very much less is more – as Farr puts it, “you set up, start playing, and the songs come”.  Now, you could call that jamming, but it sounds more organic, like that ol’ Zen poem: “I fetch water. I break sticks. Miracles happen!”  Or not, maybe, when the instrumental ‘Runnin Hidin Jam’, with its clanking percussion and abrasive guitar, sounds less like the path to enlightenment than scratching your head with a cheese grater.  In a good way, mind you.  And ironically, considering its title, ‘Take It Slow’ is also relatively upbeat – relatively, I say – with its spiky guitar and stop-start drums combining in a lurching groove.
On the other hand, ‘Gettin Tired Of Gettin Old’ is contemplative, with low down, slowly spiralling guitar notes and prickly chords as the foundation for Farr’s world-weariness.  Meanwhile ‘Night Train’ sho’ ain’t no James Brown cover, with stuttering, twanging guitar over the pattering drums sketching out a loose rhythm.  Similarly ‘Train Keep Rollin’ bears no relation to the Yardbirds or (heaven help us) Aerosmith, but features some geezer riding the rails who “Ain’t got nowhere to go”, to the accompaniment of Farr’s guitar looping and scrabbling like barbed wire tangled across no-man’s land.  And if you think the bonus track ‘Go Cat Go’ might be a bit of rock’n’roll then think again, because it finds Farr moaning “I bet I’m gonna walk now I bet I’m gonna Go Cat Go” over stumbling drums and fuzzy guitar, sounding trapped and ever more frustrated, like a prisoner on Death Row willing a pardon to turn up before the clock ticks down to midnight.
Less is more, like I said, and on Pandora Sessions Farr and his drummer/producer Johnson pretty much dispense with the bass that gave an extra layer to earlier albums.  Hell, they scarcely bother with drums on the bleak, droning ‘Where I Come From’, while ‘Oh Lord’ is boiled right down to a rolling guitar line and a plaintive, moaning mantra from Farr.
So sure, Pandora Sessions is nobody’s barrel of laughs.  And being honest, a few tunes are just a bit too under-nourished to latch onto.  But let yourself fall into it, follow Farr into its heart of darkness, and even if you don’t like it there’s something you’ll recognise.  It’s the blues, Jack.
Pandora Sessions is out now.

1 comment:

  1. This review is totally on point. These gritty tunes are as deep as blues gets, down to its heart and its bones (stealing the phrase from Paul Simon). Robert Connelly Farr follows blues down to the darkest part of their heart and reaches us as we sink right on down with it. He gets better every time out.