Historically, the blues has been a vocal musical form. Field hollers soared across the cotton and tobacco fields of the southern United States long before the first guitar god plugged in his amp. The first blues records focused on singers. Mamie Smith, Bessie Smith, and Ethel Waters made their mark with their voices. Even instrumental virtuoso Blind Lemon Jefferson sold records on the strength of his voice and the content of his lyrics.
Richard Carr continues the tradition of the blues singer. Carr grew up in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, not generally regarded as a hot bed of the blues. During summers on the Alabama Gulf Coast he spent many Sundays listening to the all-day gospel music radio broadcasts.
Richard Carr didn’t plan on becoming a blues singer. His earliest influence was classical Latin choral music at the local convent school. Although his first love was the drum, Richard’s godfather decided the guitar made less noise and Richard soon began taking lessons at a nearby Baptist Church. There he was exposed to the depth and beauty of gospel music, much as generations of southern blues and soul singers have been.
Gospel was soon followed by exposure to jazz and swing. Richard’s original ambition was to a be a crooner like Dean Martin or Tony Bennett. This influence is apparent as Carr’s debut album focuses on his clear, clean vocals and story-telling skills as a songwriter.
Despite these early influences Carr isn’t new to the blues. After playing with a number of groups during his teens, Richard was absent from the music business for several years. In the mid nineties he resumed his professional musical career while living in Boston, Massachusetts. Since 1996 he has been a working musician in Quebec’s surprisingly busy blues scene. Over the past few years gigs have been become more steadily frequent and at increasingly larger venues including some of Canada’s most prestigious blues clubs and festivals.
Carr’s original songs feel old, in a good way. They evoke images of Fred Astaire or Cab Calloway out on the town for a night of big cars, bright lights, flashy suits and glamour. From the instrumental guitar bounce of “Top Swing” to the title cut “Tell Everybody” Richard Carr’s songs follow the best of blues traditions. The songs have purpose and meaning. Best of all, his songs tell stories.