Blues Album Review: Robert Connely Farr’s “Country Supper” — Feed a Hunger for That Lonesome Delta Sound

By Ryan Lee Crosby

Country Supper is a beautifully produced album, a cohesive musical and artistic statement that will appeal to serious fans of the blues, country, and indie rock.

Robert Connely Farr, Country Supper

Are you interested in the terrain where American musical tradition and individual artistry come together? Are you hankering for a good strong shot of true Southern soul? Then pick up singer-songwriter Robert Connely Farr’s fine new album Country Supper. Not only will it satisfy your hunger to hear a genuinely lonesome Delta sound; the record offers compelling interpretations of a timeless regional repertoire cherished by blues lovers the world over.

At the heart of Country Supper sits a sensitive balance between seemingly separate worlds: the traditional and the contemporary, the past and the present, the backwoods and the city streets. Farr juggles this duality well in his music, perhaps because it reflects his own life’s journey. Although he currently lives in Vancouver, BC, he grew up in the small town of Bolton, MS, which was once the home of delta blues pioneer Charley Patton as well as the base for the legendary prewar ensemble The Mississippi Sheiks. Farr and his band have been in the Northwest for over a decade now, but he still spends plenty of time in Mississippi. When Farr’s at home, he can be found in Bentonia at Jimmy “Duck” Holmes’s historic juke joint, the Blue Front Cafe. Since 2017, Holmes has mentored Farr, along with a number of other musicians, in the Bentonia style of the Delta Blues. Holmes, who has received a 2021 Grammy nomination (for the Dan Auerbach–produced album Cypress Grove), is a living legend, the last in a vital lineage that includes Skip James, Jack Owens, and Henry Stuckey.

On Country Supper, Holmes’s influence looms large and the music of the Delta shines brightly throughout. But the overall feeling and the sound of the record is all Farr and his band, whose songwriting and playing organically interweave juke joint blues, indie rock, and alt-country. The result is an accessible Americana style that also comes off as highly personal. Farr’s heartfelt lyrics and gravelly vocals pair perfectly with the impressive skills of guitarists Jon Wood and special guest Ben Yardley, bassist Tom Hillifer, and drummer Jay Bundy Johnson. The material was produced by the band and recorded with additional production by Liam Moes at the heralded Hipposonic Studios in Vancouver.

The ensemble pays tribute to the past, while also carving out their own unique musical vision. Here, traditional melodies of the Delta are woven into a tapestry of soulful, electric country rock, with jangly and swampy electric guitars backed by a hard-hitting rhythm section. The guitar lexicon of Bentonia is firmly and organically rooted deep within the grooves, and Farr’s rough-and-tumble vocals, soaked in reverb, drive the proceedings with fierce, locomotive power.

Farr and the band sound equally at home singing and playing original compositions as they do rendering their own interpretations of Delta standards from Bentonia to Sabougla. Of the 17 songs on Country Supper, eight hail from Mississippi, including the Skip James classic “Cypress Grove,” Jack Owens’s “Gimme Yo Money,” and the Holmes staples “Catfish,” Train Train,” and “Must Have Been the Devil.” There are also renditions of Leo Bud Welch’s “Girl in the Holler” and “I Know I Been Changed” that the band plays with respect and appreciation while they stay true to their own identity.

As a complement to the Delta repertoire, Farr’s nine originals expand on Country Supper’s offerings: alongside the gritty guitars and driving grooves, there is also a tender world-weariness, best expressed in songs such as “I Ain’t Dying,” “If It Was Up to Me,” “All Good,” and “Bad Whiskey.” In these tunes, Farr evokes a ragged mournfulness that conveys a feeling of time spent on the edge.

Country Supper comes on the heels of an intense year for Farr. In 2019, he received a cancer diagnosis and underwent emergency surgery. His previous studio album, 2018’s Dirty South Blues, was met with widespread critical acclaim. The record was named one of KEXP’s Top Albums of 2019 and earned Farr nominations at Canada’s prestigious Maple Blues Awards for Songwriter of the Year and New Artist of the Year.

The new album continues Farr’s well-deserved winning streak. It has garnered praise from dozens of national publications and has had some radio chart success. What Farr and his band have achieved is no small feat — to find your place in a tradition while also expressing the truth of your own experience. Country Supper is a beautifully produced album, a cohesive musical and artistic statement that will appeal to serious fans of the blues, country, and indie rock. It blends the immediacy of the juke joint with a slow introspection, comfortably navigating a style that is equal parts rural and urban, timeless and modern.

Ryan Lee Crosby is an internationally traveling singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and music teacher. His latest album, River Music, blends influences of Mississippi blues and North Indian raga.

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