Richard Ray Farrell – Three Pints of Gin
CD: 16 Songs, 55 Minutes
Styles: Acoustic Blues, Harmonica Blues, Solo Album
Going solo is sometimes a risky endeavor in the blues. When crowds want a band, they want a band, with more than one rip-roaring shredder. New York’s Richard Ray Farrell, an acoustic guitar and harmonica specialist, has always had the courage to go it alone. His new CD, Three Pints of Gin, is a comfort-food smorgasbord of sixteen songs, including covers such as Lonnie Johnson’s “Lazy Woman Blues” and “In the Jailhouse Now.” He shines on his original material, in terms of both instrumentation and songwriting. His patter vocals could use some melodic oomph, but for the most part, Farrell’s laid-back style will please even the purest purists. For nearly an hour, Richard Ray entertains us with blues the way it used to be.
In terms of one’s life work, there are jobs, there are careers, and then there are callings. Born in Niagara Falls, New York in 1956, Richard Ray Farrell left his hometown only two weeks after graduating from high school and backpacked his way through Europe, not knowing at the time that music would be his destiny. Since the ‘90s, he’s released several self-produced acoustic blues albums including Cataract Jump (1996), Black Limousine (1999), and Stuck on the Blues (2007). Good luck finding those three, however, because according to Farrell’s website, they’re sold out. That’s how much his talent has influenced his fans in the U.S. and around the world.
“Juke Joint Swing,” the opening track, puts this older Millennial in mind of “Church of the Poison Mind” by Culture Club – and that’s a great thing. This song is super-catchy, perfect for playing air guitar and air harp. The solo in the middle might burn your fingers, though. “Triflin’ Preacher Blues,” number four, is absolutely hilarious: “A preacher moved in to the neighborhood. I knew right away that chump wasn’t no good, ‘cause he’s a real double dealer, watermelon stealer, a dirty plum plucker, a shady peanut shucker with a big old greasy head. I wish to hell that sucker’d fall down dead.” Not a very Christian sentiment, eh? Later on comes “Ice Man,” a terrific harmonica showcase with a bouncy beat despite its morbid subject: “What you gonna say when they come to haul your mama away?” “Funny Feeling Blues” exemplifies the genre’s pre-war sound, and “Dope Shootin’ Woman” combines two sucker-punches in one – the loss of a romantic partner and the horrors of drug addiction. Last but not least comes “I’ll Be Comin’ Home,” a soothing return after Richard Ray’s musical ramble.
Love acoustic blues combined with unfettered harmonica? Three Pints of Gin for you!