Richard Ray Farrell | Bohemian Life

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Blues: Electric Blues Blues: Acoustic Blues Moods: Featuring Guitar
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Bohemian Life

by Richard Ray Farrell

Electric and acoustic blues from a veteran player who has lived and breathed the blues
Genre: Blues: Electric Blues
Release Date: 

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1. Fine Little Number
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3:04 $0.99
2. Cold Heart
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3:19 $0.99
3. Lawfully Wedded Wife
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4:47 $0.99
4. Natch'l Man
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4:09 $0.99
5. School of Hard Knocks
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2:40 $0.99
6. Bad Intentions
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4:22 $0.99
7. Jealous Man
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4:20 $0.99
8. Blues All In My Home
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3:26 $0.99
9. Mean Case of the Blues
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2:22 $0.99
10. Oh Sunny Day
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1:57 $0.99
11. My Heart Beats Just For You
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3:30 $0.99
12. I Was Wrong
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3:49 $0.99
13. The Hard Road
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2:57 $0.99
14. Jitterboppin'
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2:46 $0.99
15. You Got It!
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3:01 $0.99
16. Bohemian Life
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2:59 $0.99
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
RICHARD RAY FARRELL:

Some people live to make money, and some people make money to live. Some people are music lovers, some people are hobby musicians, and then again some people live and breathe music. They are the "real deal," so to speak. Richard Ray Farrell is one of them. He has not only mastered the art of singing and playing the blues--he has literally "lived" the blues for years on end.

Born in Niagara Falls, New York in 1956, Richard Ray 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. More than twenty-five years on the road as a travelling blues musician was to give him substantial credentials as a top-notch talent in the world of the blues.

Richard Ray started as a street musician or "busker" in Paris, France in 1975. Totally fascinated with the music of Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and other legendary blues players, Richard played for hours on end in the halls and tunnels of the Parisian "Metro" subway, scraping out a living as a musician, literally a "po' boy long way from home."

Little by little, Richard worked his way up from the subways and streets of cities throughout the continent, eventually forming his own band and going on to perform on some of the largest and most prestigious stages in Europe, together with some of the true "giants" of traditional American blues music.

In 1978, Richard got an offer to front a blues-rock band in Spain. These were hard times for Richard. He was making even less money than when he was playing on the street and sometimes was "down to his last shirt and pair of jeans." All this time, Richard had been living as a "tourist" and was unable to take a normal job, having no official working papers.

Richard lived the life of a true gypsy for years, and actually did live with a Gypsy family for six months in Spain in the late 1970's. To make things even harder, Richard became a father to a baby boy in 1980. He made the move to Germany with his then wife and child in 1985 and started playing for a local blues band in the Stuttgart area. In 1987, Richard opened for Joe Cocker at the Backnang Open Air Festival. He was still playing on the streets, as the blues band just didn't make enough money to live on. But things were starting to pick up.

Richard formed his first trio, the Richard Ray Farrell Band, in 1989. Living in Germany and gradually making a name for himself, Richard started touring in Italy, Switzerland, France, Holland and Belgium with a former sideman to R.L. Burnside, Jon Morris Nerenberg. It was through Jon that Richard started meeting older bluesmen from the American south and accompanying them on tours throughout Europe. Tours with Lazy Lester, Big Jack Johnson, Big Boy Henry, Louisiana Red, Frank Frost and R.L. Burnside followed.

This was a great development process for Richard. He learned first hand from legendary masters of the blues, touring on and off with R.L. Burnside and Frank Frost for a period of about four years between 1990 and 1993. In 1992, Richard drew the attention of German record producer Alf List, founder of the Stormy Monday label. Richard put out his first CD produced by List, "Live in Germany" later that year.

In 1993, Richard and Jon formed the band "Street Talk" together with David Olson (Robert Cray's Grammy Award winning drummer) and Joel Foy (ex-of James Harman, William Clarke and Screamin' Jay Hawkins). This proved to be an excellent band, but they couldn't stay together for geographic reasons--Richard lived in Germany, Jon lived in Holland, David lived in New York and Joel lived in California. Richard went back to doing his solo acoustic thing and playing with his electric trio.

In 1995, Richard got a phone call from Jimmy Carl Black, legendary drummer with Frank Zappa's "Mothers of Invention" and a Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Jimmy had recently moved to the area and was looking for a blues guitarist to form a band. Richard and Jimmy appreciated each other's talents immediately,
and soon formed the "FARRELL & BLACK" band. The group proved to be very successful and went on to record two CD's for Stormy Monday Records, "Cataract Jump" in 1996 and "Black Limousine" in 1999.

During this period, Richard honed his skills in arranging and songwriting, composing the music and writing the lyrics for eight of the sixteen songs on "Cataract Jump" and eleven of the fourteen songs on "Black Limousine." Richard also put out an impressive solo acoustic CD on Stormy Monday in 1998 entitled "Street Songs, Jazzy Tunes & Down Home Blues".

In an extreme turn of events, Richard Ray decided to move back to the United States in 2001. Now living in the greater Philadelphia area, Richard recently put together a new CD featuring sixteen original songs. It was recorded with the help of an all-star lineup of musicians, including a guest appearance by harmonica virtuoso Jerry Portnoy. Entitled "Bohemian Life," the CD is Richard's current release on the newly formed BlueBeet label from southern California.


Reviews


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Mick Rainsford


"Bohemian Life" is Richard Ray Farrell's fifth, and first American recorded and produced, release, the others having been recorded in Europe, where he has been based since 1974. To celebrate this, Farrell (guitar,harp,vocals) has surounded himself with some of the finest musicians on the blues scene today, the band featuring Steve Gomes (bass), Robb Stupka (drums), Bill Heid (piano), Benjie Porecki (Hammond organ) and Jerry Portnoy (harp).
The set opens with Portnoy's harp leading the band into a classic Chi-Town shuffle, "Fine Little Number", fine ensemble playing allied to Farrell's unpretentious vocals, lending the number a strong Jimmy Rogers feel that is recreated on "Mean Case Of The Blues". Portnoy is again in outstanding form as his harp warbles behind Farrell's Delta styled guitar and vocals on "Blues All In My Home", a number that is fashioned on Muddy's Plantation' recordings.
"Bad Intention" is a brooding blues with feral Elmore styled slide and cascading piano from Bill Heid; Farrell's slide going into "fuzzed out" mode on "Jealous Man", where his droning vocals and Gomes' pulsing bass lines enhance the Hound Dog feel that permeates this blues.
Farrell is not confined to Chicago blues, displaying his dexterity with some fine finger-picking on the bouncing Piedmont styled "Oh Sunny Day" and the laid back "The Hard Road"; melding soul and C&W on"Natch'l Man", with it's haunting harp (Farrell) and tantalizing piano fills by Porecki's lingering Hammond; whilst his smooth vocals and Porecki's jazz inflected Hammond ride the relaxed swing the band generates on "My Heart Beats Just For You".
Whilst listening to this set, I was reminded of Billy Flynn, a feeling that was perpetuated when I heard "Jitterboppin'", a surf styled number, with shimmering guitar, reminiscent of the instrumentals that Flynn loves playing so much; and I can pay Farrell no higher compliment than to make that comparison about a set that will appeal to blues lovers of all persuasions.

Craig Ruskey


16 tracks, 54 minutes. Excellent. Of the hundreds and hundreds of CD's that are released by independent blues artists and bands here in the US each year, many are solid works deserving much wider recognition. Of the countless discs that landed here in the past six months, Bohemian Life by Richard Ray Farrell stands near the top of the list. Aided by a tight and recognized band consisting of Steve Gomes and Robb Stupka anchoring the grooves, Bill Heid delivers piano and Benjie Porecki adds swelling organ, giving Farrell plenty of room for his greasy harp and stinging guitar, and as muscular as his playing is, his voice works as an incredible weapon. Influences are evident throughout the disc's sixteen cuts, but with everything penned by Farrell, the originality stands out. Jerry Portnoy offers his stellar harp to Fine Little Number, Blues All In My Home and Mean Case Of The Blues, but Farrell's own playing and singing make this work. From his Muddy-infused Bad Intentions with buzzing slide to the New Orleans flavored School Of Hard Knocks, or the Guitar Gable crunch in Jitterboppin' - all cylinders click making this a focused and gripping effort. Jealous Man is a lowdown acoustic piece with brilliant lyrics and Oh Sunny Day contains deft fingerpicking recalling Mississippi John Hurt, both of these adding a nice twist to this set of mostly-amplified blues. Get a taste of the Bohemian Life.
Craig Ruskey

Vicente Zumel


There has been a great surprise to listen to this excellent CD recorded by Richard Ray Farrell, a singer and guitar player born in Niagara Falls, N.Y. forty-nine years ago and who has been living in Spain for some time. As the CD title says, Richard has always been a bohemian, a tireless traveller who has visited half Europe and after some years staying here and there, has finally decided to come back to the United States and try to get the reputation he really deserves. Specialized media and popular blues artists have spoken wonderfully about him as an excellent singer and musician. For this CD Richard Ray has a very special guest, Jerry Portnoy, who performs harp on three tunes, and the contribution of Benjie Porecki on organ and Steve Gomes on bass. Sixteen Farrell's original tunes that will certainly surprise listeners and delight all blues fans. GREAT.
Vicente Zumel "La Hora Del Blues" - Radio Barcelona, Spain

Blues Revue

The 16 originals display tasty harmonica and guitar, no-jive singing and range
Bohemian Life (Blue Beet 100001) is a dazzling demonstration of writing and performing skill. The 16 originals display tasty harmonica and guitar, no-jive singing and range: "Cold Heart" hits with a martial drum pattern and crisply staccato guitar lines, "Bad Intentions"
is pure Muddy Waters, "Blues All In My Home" could be Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry (that's Jerry Portnoy on harp),
and "Mean Case Of The Blues" and "Fine Little Number" are Chicago-style blues. "My Heart Beats Just For You" is a cool shuffle driven by Benjie Porecki's organ and Robb Stupka's drums (most of the Severn house band is here, with Bill Heid on piano). Pop-blues? "Natchl Man". Deep soul? "I Was Wrong." Garage surf? "Jitterboppin'." Spare, minor-key coctail blues? "Lawfully Wedded Wife." Outstanding.
Tom Hyslop, Blues Revue Magazine

Wade Prozeller

World class voice and song writing, mediocre backup band and recording studio
There were 3 songs on this CD that I really liked so that is why I bought the CD. This is not unlike most artists that have "filler material" on albums. However, Farrell had alot of tracks on this CD, you were bound to connect with something.
Farrell's voice is world class and could have easily obtained a 5 star rating, it was the backup instruments and recording studio that hindered this CD. His voice sounded beneath the music and often tired or lacked emotion on some material probably due to the way the CD was recorded(or was it due to years of playing to a more subdued audience like in Germany?). Farrell wrote most or all of the material and it is great stuff-a testament to his ability. Hopefully, next time he will get a little more"angry"/emotional and get the instrumental backup and studio that he needs to showcase his tremendous vocal abilities.