We have written about Robert before - he grew up in the small southern town of Bolton, Mississippi, which is the home of Charley Patton & The Mississippi Sheiks. Since his highly acclaimed 2019 release "Dirty South Blues," Robert has been working on "Country Supper," which was released in October of this year. I have been listening to this gritty and resonant musical document for a few months now. This entire album is a regular on the Roots playlist for CHILLFILTR Radio. Clearly, Farr has taken great care to honor the legacy of Mississippi legends like Skip James, Jack Owens, and his mentor Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, at the same time that he brings his own fresh perspective to the Bentonia sound.
In 2019, just as things were taking off with "Dirty South Blues," Farr was diagnosed with cancer and was forced into emergency surgery. In spite of, or perhaps because of this, "If It Was Up To Me," and by extension "Country Supper," embodies a certain type of melancholy that will sound like home for any deep fan of the Blues. Farr deftly reconfigures the standard elements of a bar-room ensemble - drums, bass, and 2 guitars - with a stereo separation of the twin lead guitars that creates a beautiful sense of space. At once, we are sipping on a glass of whiskey, beer chaser, waxing poetic about the way life sometimes lets you down. In that moment, there is both beauty and tragedy: light and shadow. In the great tradition of populist art, Farr gives us a window into the personal process of making peace from chaos.
The video for "If It Was Up To Me," made by Tyler McLeod & MixTape Rodeo, illustrates the binary world of rural America - the decay, and the history. In a way, the struggle depicted here belongs to all of us. The forgotten, overgrown house is our house. Old water towers, vintage church buses, and fallow fields: these are the byproducts of a cultural reinvention. What will become of the symbols that once stood as a comfort to rural citizens? How do we rebuild that which has deteriorated in a way that honors the past, but also adjusts for a smarter future?
Robert Connely Farr comes to grips with these important questions through the language of introspection and open, intellectual fantasy. As he balances the yearning for escape and anonymity against the heart-pull of personal redemption, we experience a stream-of-consciousness rooted in memory. A beach in Mexico, a missed kiss, a stiff drink; these are the details that keep coming back. "If It Was Up To Me" blends superb natural tones with the enduring touchstones of a bluesman, and delivers the kind of wistful reckoning that pairs well with your favorite tequila.