Robert Connely Farr is a Vancouver resident, who grew up in Bolton MS. In 2017, he travelled to nearby Bentonia to learn from Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, who runs and performs at the Blue Front Café there. It’s celebrating its 70th anniversary this year and is the longest running juke joint in Mississippi.

Bentonia Blues is a unique style of blues whose best-known practitioners were Skip James and Jack Owens. They both learned from Henry Stuckey, who didn’t record. Stuckey also taught Holmes, who is now the last of the originals in this style. All of this might lead you to think that Farr is a country bluesman except for the fact that he leads a five-piece Southern rock band called the Rebeltone Boys. Farr has now used this combination to write some very effective modern blues.

From almost solo performances to flat out rockers, the ten songs here are exceptional. The album’s title song is ‘Farr’s attempt to reconcile/question some of the more controversial elements of the south such as the rebel flag & pockets of racism that are still prevalent’. Over twin slide guitars, a B3 and pounding drums & bass, he sings that if you go down south to criticize these things, you better watch your back. “Magnolia”, with its low-tuned guitar & tom-toms, contrasts the beautiful flower with its not-so-beautiful surroundings.

He does write about Bentonia in several songs: “Blue Front Café” finds him sitting on its porch contemplating his mortality and that he may not be going to heaven. I don’t think Skip James would recognize this version of “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” but it is a remarkable, tuneful, performance. He and Holmes rewrote one of Holmes’ songs, “Just Jive”, a rocking number about some of his current partner’s comments. He does sing about his adopted hometown but in a most unflattering way: “Lady Heroin” is a harrowing song about that epidemic.
Farr is a powerful, expressive singer and Leeroy Stagger’s vibrant production serves him well as do the Rebeltone Boys: Evan Ushenko, lead guitar; Tyson Maiko, bass; Kyle Harmon, drums and Michael Ayotte, keys. This is a most impressive album and I hope he goes further down this road, we have quite enough southern rock bands. His web site is www.robertconnelyfarr.com.

February 2019 - Loose Blues News
January 2019 - Robert Davis