“One of the genre’s most underrated performers”. Richard Ray Farrell’s last CD, “Bohemian Life”, was strictly in the electric tradition, with a strong Chicago feel; however on “Acoustic Roots” we find Farrell exploring the roots of his earliest influences with a series of well chosen covers from the likes of Blind Blake, Bukka White, Leadbelly et al. Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and rack harp, Farrell’s intimate vocal stylings, which at times remind me of Leon Redbone, are ideally suited to the country blues tradition, his robust vocals, laced with humour, bringing new life to numbers like “Diggin’ My Potatoes” and the exhuberant “Ella Speed”.
Farrell’s repertoire ranges from the sly humour and plaintive slide that permeates Memphis Slim’s “Sassy Mae” through the percussive guitar and harp, and urgent vocals of “Poor Boy”, to the melancholy “I Want You To Know” (Bo Carter) with it’s wistful vocals and wonderful picking; all of which he graces with an honesty and earthy beauty that indicates a natural ease and feel for traditional blues.
Like most true blues musicians, Farrell is no mere copyist, taking his influences and reinterpreting their music, adding his own personality to turn numbers like Bukka White’s “Shake ‘Em On Down” into a plaintive lament riding a compelling guitar riff, whilst “John Henry” becomes a fine downhome country blues harp instrumental. Smokey Hogg’s “Too Many Drivers” is an intense performance, laced with menace, riding a compelling guitar riff; Son House’s “Jinx Blues” is played in Muddy’s early Plantation style, replete with House influences, with raw anguished vocals and intense slide; whilst “Mean Mistreater” captures the plaintiveness inherent in Leroy Carr’s blues, enhanced by Farrell’s moaning high register harp.
Despite the fact that there is only one original on this set, Farrell’s obvious love for, sympathy with and command of traditional country blues ensures that this set is a delight from first track to last.
Mick Rainsford, Blues in Britain Magazine