Robert Connely Farr’s recent release, “Dirty South Blues”, was recorded at the Rebeltone Ranch in Alberta, Canada. Just off the winding banks of the Oldman River, nestled in the frontier foothills of Lethbridge, the rustic Western Canadian studio is a far cry from the shallow swales and swamps of Farr’s birthplace, the Mississippi Delta. Backed by The Rebeltone Boys (Evan Ushenko on Lead Guitar, Tyson Maiko on Bass, Kyle Harmon on Drums, Michael Ayotte on Keys), Farr was able to lay down 40+ minutes of haunting blues lyrics over sludgy grooves. Produced by Leeroy Stagger and mixed by Jon Wood (Flophouse JR), this 10-track effort may have been recorded north of the borderline, but its roots hold strong in the swamplands.
Perhaps the most influential and impactful contributor to this album is a gentleman by the name of Jimmy “Duck” Holmes. Farr met Holmes around 2017 in Bentonia, MS, a kinship was formed along with a teacher student relationship. The unique style that was being passed is called the Bentonian style blues, in reference to the city and birthplace of thistraditional offshoot. It is a bit more complex than your standard 12 bar blues, featuring odd tunings, and is seeded in the minor key for the most part. You hear the dark Minor tone right off the first note in the opening song “Ode to the Lonesome”. The Rebeltones really flex their musical muscles early. Track 2 saw Connely Farr & Co find cohesive grooves to accompany the lonesome and smokey grit of Connely Farr’s vocals in “Dirty South Blues”, the albums namesake . In addition to finding that tight pocket,, the poignant lyrics raise into question the very heritage of the place Connely Farr calls home. The sludge of the swampland really takes hold on track 4, “Hard Times Killin Floor”. Ayotte’s distance swirling keys come and go as they please, while Connely Farr makes his biggest statement vocally with a chillingly perfect take.
A definite bright spot on the album is “Just Jive” written by none other than Jimmy “Duck” Holmes. Maiko & Harmon keep the pace steady and the tempo swift, on bass and drums respectively. This mostly stripped down traditional arrangement is a breath of air, from the dark and droned notes of previous tracks. The band keeps it all business with this one as to give the teacher a proper nod to his life’s work. We stop back off in the swamplands for “Cypress Tree Blues” and “Hey Mr. Devil”. Both tracks are of the scorned and love forlorn variety. Set to the distinctive backdrop of the Bentonia School, they keep it progressive by utilizing effects and echos that keep the music moving forward.
With a firm foot planted in the roots of yesterday, Connely Farr is able to keep a tunnel vision towards the future with this “Dirty South Blues” album. Get yourself a copy here> http://www.robertconnelyfarr.com/