In the late 60’s, when I was about 20 years old, I was as turbulent as the era. The summer before my last year at the University of Washington I managed a swimming pool in Concrete, Washington (named after the Lone Star Cement Company, but that’s another story). I lived in the house of a semi-retired couple that ran a roadside fix-it shop for the area. Over time we became friends. One day while pondering what to do with my life he said, “Well, what you want to do is find out what you like doing most in the world and then convince someone else to pay you to do it.” Those were some real sage words for me. The guitar was my solace during that very difficult period and I have always had wanderlust. So, I decided what I wanted was to travel the world playing my guitar. Little did I know then that I would fly one million miles, perform in 24 countries and in 48 states. That I would represent the United States on several occasions performing overseas, that I would sit at the feet of a Samashan master in a geisha school in Kyoto, be the guest of a pasha, that I would see the oud played in Zanzibar, visit the Parthenon…well, you get the idea.
The pieces recorded here are my musical reminiscence of some of those travels. Tropicale has all the excitement and rhythm of a marketplace in Curacao or Koto Kini Balu. The repetitive nature of the piece reflects the sing-song quality of the women selling their wares. The Caress is symbolic not only of the physical affection for, but also the way I have been romanced by, the tropics. Rio de Janeiro inspired that work as well as the Twilight Samba. The Irish Lament, what can I say? The Irish part of me is as morose as anybody from the Emerald Isle (especially after a couple of whiskeys accompanied by that Irish food in a glass, Guinness). They must have invented the lament; it would be lamentable if they didn’t! I toured that wonderful land in the early 80’s and the Irish, like a Greek named Zorba, dance their troubles away and after a jig, a pint and another jig, one usually does have something to lament.
In Buenos Aires you step into a taxi and you will know instantly that the Tango is an integral part of their being. The personal expression of the dance is a perfect venue for the classical guitar, the instrument that has mystery at its core, the most personal of instruments. It takes both hands caressing the strings to produce a sound. While I was the guest of a pasha in Turkey, the connection between their music and the gypsy music of Spain was visceral, direct and intoxicating. In such a magic situation Cleopatra’s Dance could only sound one way.
Shaken, not Stirred was inspired by the most universal of all cocktails…the Martini. Whether sipping away in Harry’s Bar in Venice, the top of the peak in Hong Kong, or along the many dusty byways that has been my journey, it has offered great succor and has improved many an uninspired dinner. To my way of thinking the best place to live is a tropical island blessed with the trade winds, a temperature between 70 and 85 degrees, and moderate rain. The island must be granite or Volcanic to give the topography a life. And if the French and the English had some hand in its development you will have the best of two worlds, good roads, potable water, and Creole cooking. And if you ever leave such a place with the smell of the topical spices, there will be more than just a little bit of longing Leaving the Islands.
At age 14, my first paid performance was accompanying a Cuban refugee who sang folk songs. In homage to those great beginnings Travelin’ On is my hats off to Pete, Bob, Joan, James, and “the trio”. Not to have a feeling for the blues would be un-American. Sometimes the frustrations of travel just bring out the blues in me and sometimes that feeling becomes the Travelin’ in Circles Blues.
Excerpt from a review by Scott MacClelland, Coast Weekly, Monterey County, California:
...Farrell has sequestered himself ... to distill decades of musical impressions into a collection of 14 original solo compositions...released under the title Travels with my Spanish Guitar...This is his best CD to date, a gutsy plunge into an expressive intensity that rolls over any niggling technical questions. Farrell with attitude? Anyone who knows the man personally will recognize him instantly from this CD. Anyone who knows his music will know immediately he has chosen to put his strongest foot forward. While it's difficult for any classical/Spanish guitarist to avoid comparison with the few technical geniuses who get the big recording contracts and commensurate exposure, opting for brimstone in the personality department is one way around the problem.
Going for a wide range of styles also makes sense. Original as these pieces are, their influences are easy to spot. Flamenco flavors several of them. There are tangos, sambas, habaneras, blues. Want ritualistic? "Cleopatra's Dance" echoes "Carmina Burana" and puts other primitivisms over a pedal point. Want tenderness? Try "The Caress" and "De mi Corazón." Does tuneful resignation meet your need? You'll want "Leaving the Islands." You can add that one to my own favorites, including "Farrell's Jig", "Shaken not Stirred," and "Travelin' in Circles Blues" in which Farrell mixes phrases where seemingly left over bits just disappear. (If this isn't an evolution in the form, it is certainly unique.)