Richard Ray Farrell's good natured figure keeps strutting the blues international paths. This Pennsylvania resident started busking Paris streets and "Metro" back in the 70's, he lived in Spain, Germany, he was part of different bands including one or two with the late Jimmy Carl Black, ex-Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention drummer or the leader of other Mannish Boys by Gary Primich's side, sowing along the way sometimes electric, sometimes acoustic CDs, in groups, solo, as a duo, with Steve Guyger or Marco Pandolfi for instance, without ever, or so it seems, reaching the fame he yet deserves. For Richard Ray Farrell, a good singer, an excellent harp player, and an exceptional guitar player. His acoustic playing, picking or slide, could make the biggest names in the genre jealous ! He is what some call a "musician's musician". Famous among our idols, unfortunately he's lesser known by audiences.
Maybe this new CD will change that ? It certainly has the potential to. For this time Farrell didn't impose any specific concept on himself. Neither entirely acoustic nor totally electric, not even 100% blues, or a tribute to the masters, even if the album is dedicated to his friend Big Jack Johnson, "The Oil Man" who passed away shortly before this release, Richard Ray seems to have thrown his original compositions onto plastic after they were recorded on different encounters. Indeed, here's Marco Pandolfi on 2 songs, the great Bill Heid (Johnny Bassett, RJ Spangler) on keys, a family on background vocals on one track, here a washboard, there a souzaphone, and so on. The often autobiographical compositions have that extra trait of humor that makes a difference. Despite an impression of calm, don't worry, the energy's here, but more swing than loud. One gets to think that despite the excellence of Richard Ray Farrell's latest albums, he could very well have just released his very best yet. What's not to like ? Compositions were mentionned, but everyone's playing, the songs moods, the omnipresent pleasure, everything makes this CD a major one. Hard to put one's finger though on what it is exactly that makes that difference, impossible to tell what makes this blues album a different one, maybe some extra soul in it ? The best is to get yourself a copy, Then you'll understand why Dick Shurman and Bruce Iglauer are as enthusiastic as yours truly about it.
By Rene Malines