The Green Room at Crosstown Arts
Thursday, June 15, 2023
Doors at 7pm | Show at 7:30
Tickets: $15 advance | $20 at the door
Join Willie Farmer, Ryan Lee Crosby & Grant Smith, and Shaun Marsh & Lynn Greer for a special performance featuring the blues across time and space – music that crosses generations, cultures, and continents.
WILLIE FARMER is living proof that Mississippi continues to produce deep blues. The 65-year-old guitarist is neither a soul modernist nor revivalist, but simply a small town auto mechanic who’s never shaken his love for old school legends like Muddy, Wolf and Lightnin’.
A lifelong resident of tiny Duck Hill, located in the hills east of the Delta, Farmer grew up on the family farm. He first took up the acoustic guitar in his early teens, and through picking cotton soon saved up enough money to buy an electric instrument.
He played for audiences at home and at school events, and learned about blues and R&B mostly through listening to a powerful station out of Nashville. In his early ‘20s Farmer joined a loose knit band that played at juke joints across the area—in Duck Hill, Grenada, Kilmichael, and down in the Delta in Greenwood and Charleston. He eventually tired, though, of the rough-and-tumble clubs where “people liked to fight like crazy.”
Farmer eventually decided he wanted to get back into blues actively. In 2003 he helped found the annual Grassroots Blues Festival, staged in a meadow outside Duck Hill. Through the event, he befriended downhome blues players from across the state including Willie King and Leo Welch.
“The Man From the Hill” marks the first time that he’s spent serious time in the studio. Recorded over multiple sessions at producer Bruce Watson’s Memphis based Delta-Sonic Sound, Farmer enjoyed working in a North Mississippi Hill Country vein with Jimbo Mathus and session drummer George Sluppick. He even dipped back into gospel, singing harmony together with Memphis’ Barnes Brothers.
For the past thirty years Farmer has run his own auto repair shop, and hopes that the release of this record and associated touring will allow him to retire. “I’m trying to get out of that shop, I’m tired of messing with those cars. It’s been a long time.”
RYAN LEE CROSBY
The fingerstyle guitar maven, songwriter and powerfully emotional performer blends echoes of traditional music from Mississippi, Mali, and India into compelling songs that speak from—and to—the heart. His music captures the timeless power of music from the Mississippi Delta, refracted by influences of Hindustani slide guitar and Crosby’s own unique approach to the style. His songs resonate with a sound and spirit forged from his life as a traveling musician and his studies with masters of the Delta and Indian traditions.
“Of all the world’s musical traditions, the one that speaks to me most directly is the Bentonia style of Delta blues,” Crosby relates. “Something I love about the blues is its timeless ability to express the entire range of the human experience: its brightest joys, deepest sorrows and everything in between. By listening to the blues, we can learn how to have compassion for ourselves and others. Its lessons are endless.”
“With a riveting singing style and the compositional chops to pull off such searing sagas “Institution Blues” and “Down So Long” plus add new lyrics to the 19th century “Was It The Devil,” Ryan Lee is the real deal. Recorded in Memphis by Bruce Watson of Fat Possum—the label famous for RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough—it sounds unique, proudly independent and like a relic from another time.” Mike Greenblatt – GOLDMINE Magazine
SHAUN MARSH with LYNN GREER
From an early age growing up in the south of England, Shaun Marsh learned the power and potential of music through his mother, a performing artist and soul singer in the sixties and seventies. Being introduced to early pop, rock & roll, R&B and soul had a profound inspiration on him. It wasn’t until he reached his forties that Shaun began to look back at the origins and true roots of the music that he’d been listening to most of his life. Late one night while tuning in to John Peel on the radio, he heard “Hellhound On My Trail,” by Robert Johnson. The raw emotion of that recording compelled him to immerse himself in the early pre war Blues. He began to develop the techniques for playing finger picking style Country and Delta blues from the recordings of the early pioneering musicians who paved the way. It was these rich and lonesome strands of storytelling that brought him to Memphis, where he continues to study in the shadow of this powerful music that defines this city. His repertoire on solo acoustic guitar ranges from Robert Johnson to Charley Patton, from Skip James to Big Bill Broonzy. Following the threads of the blues from Memphis he also gets inspiration from such greats as Johnny Cash, Magic Sam & Otis Redding. His performances create an atmosphere of true emotion, telling the stories in song of this great music that changed the sound of popular music throughout the world.