karl farren
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karl farren

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"Kindred Magazine"

Listening to Karl Farren's debut CD is like settling down with a great book of short stories. He takes the listener into the emotional depths of of the characters with the backdrop of a variety of great musical styles. A bit of southern soul, a bit of tongue-in-cheek country and a good dose of folk music made contemporary.

Farren's versatile voice tells tales from working-class Dublin to the deep south of the US and outback Australia. There are heartbreaking songs of the things we all fear most, of profound loneliness and songs that explore the darker side of life. Round it all off with a good old-fashioned love song and you'll find 'Repentance Creek' is a CD that will quickly become a staple in your music collection. The lyrics on this CD are telling great tales, some real, some imagined and in a line or two you might even hear a bit of your own story.

Review by Michele Dennis in Kindred Magazine, #23, Sept-Nov 2007
www.kindredmagazine.com.au - Alok O'Brien, Byron Publications Pty. Ltd.


Karl Farren - Repentance Creek

Repentance Creek carries the listener along on a mesmerising musical journey. From the opening Pilgrim Song’s exuberant joy of rushing home into the arms of a lover, to the final track’s haunting plea for an impossible love to Go Not Away From Me, Karl Farren’s debut CD surges, swirls and meanders its way through a richly beautiful musical and emotional terrain.

It has been described as backwoods soul music, and that label is as good as any for this diverse collection, drawing from a range of sources, fresh as rain and ancient as the sea. Some tracks sound like they could have been handed down for generations since first written by our old favourites Trad and Anon, or snatched off an Appalachian porch by a particularly intrepid songcatcher, while others weave together more contemporary strands of folk, alt country and rockabilly.

Karl’s assured guitar playing features on most of the tracks, as he switches between acoustic, electric, slide, electric slide and resonator guitars as the shifting style and mood require. Other musicians join him in his carefully sculpted arrangements, adding double bass, drums, whistle, fiddle, organ, electric piano and harmony vocals. But he is not afraid to let his supple tenor voice stand alone, with the final track recalling the sean nós style of his Irish homeland and the haunting lament Chickabee accompanied only by wind, ghostly screeches and crow calls.

The musicianship of Karl and his friends are the medium for the real backwoods soul of this CD – the emotional resonance of the songs. Each song soaks into the listener as it tells its tale, washing up feelings of longing, loathing, rage, regret, despair, desperation, triumph, tears, and so many flavours of love, that linger long after the words and music have faded away.

If you missed Malcolm Fielding’s radio show on August 7th, you can immerse yourself in Repentance Creek on Karl’s Myspace page at www.myspace.com/karlfarren. Then rush over to Indie CDs (www.indie-cds.com) to take yourself on the journey. - Tasmanian Folk Federation

"Indie CD's external reviewer"


Repentance Creek is one of those albums that benefits from slow immersion, revealing itself quietly as its petals unfold. The overall flavour is a blend of countrified folksy with a dash of mountain blues – a perfect soundtrack to easing gently into a lazy morning around the house or in the settling of the evening. Simple uncluttered music, mostly acoustic, Karl’s guitar nicely complemented with touches of double bass, country fiddle, whistle and a few other well-placed instruments.

What drew me in most of all was the lyrics – carefully-crafted stories that nestle into the music and offer thoughtful sketches of rural life and love’s decay. These are maps of the human heart, that even in the sweetest moments evoke the kind of slow deterioration of rusted metal, overgrown weeds, collapsing wood……the honest process of life’s incompletions.

Turns-of-phrase, metaphor and analogy weave through each song, often producing the sort of poetry that comes from a life lived deeply with a carefully-examined heart.

Some tracks are fully countrified (minus the western). ‘Pilgrim Song’ is a travellin’ song with a traintrack shuffle, tracing a lover’s arc out on the road and the eventual arrival home filled with both anticipation and trepidation. ‘Nasty’ is a hoot – a rompin’ rollickin’ country stomp a la early Johnny Cash, with a string of clever wordplays lamenting a woman’s contradictions. ‘Betty On The Wireless’ and ‘No-one Ever’ carry a kind of bittersweet backporch mountain music feel, and the sawing country fiddle of Susanna Carman adds a rich earthiness to the mood.

Some tracks have a James Taylor flavour, that combination of unobtrusive fingerpicking and mellow vocal sweetness – in Karl’s case I think the contemplative depth of his lyrics save songs like ‘Saddle Road’ and ‘Done For Love’ from getting too syrupy.

Two tracks highlight Karl’s honest vocals unaccompanied, providing nice textural contrast to the album. ‘Chickabee’ is an Appalachian lament to a buried daughter, with the eerie atmospherics of a windscape in the background. ‘Go Not Away From Me’, the other solo vocal piece, is a more Celtic styling, a deeply intimate poem to the lingering sensuousness between two lovers.

‘Perdition’ is one of my personal favourites, probably because it stands alone stylistically, and suggests a more aggressive aspect to the songwriter. It’s a kind of fire-n-brimstone blues holler, with resonator slide and an edgy electric slide in the back of the mix, plus a workgang “hoom” adding balls to the piece. “I eat like the locust, I sleep without mercy, I speak without scruples, I live without warning” comes the plaintive shout, a passionate declaration with a dark angry edge. I’d be interested to see if there was more of this kind of Karl Farren!

A different kind of power comes through in ‘The Fixer’ and ‘Betty On The Wireless’, that is, Karl’s ability to reach into the story of someone else’s life and offer tribute to them in a respectfully heartfelt and soulful way. ‘The Fixer’ dedicates itself to Karl’s father Jem’s life as a foundry man, while ‘Betty On The Wireless’ pays homage to a woman’s life on the land.

Musically this album will creep in and take root quietly, while conscientious attention to the lyrics will reward with many moments of reflection.

Bradfield Dumpleton 2007
- indie-cds.com

"Rhythms, Australia's Roots Music Monthly"

This review of 'Repentance Creek' was written by Tony Hillier, and published in this month's (November 2007) 'Rhythms', Australia's Roots Music Monthly:

Pete Murray and co. had better take stock! With singer-songwriters of the calibre of Karl Farren...crashing through the ranks, the local scene is set for a shake-up, one suspects. With warm expressive voice(s) that focus attention on...poetic lyrics, and guitar techniques to interest even fastidious acoustic music buffs, they certainly command attention.

Karl Farren was raised in Ireland and played in a variety of bands in Dublin and London before moving to Australia in 1998. He draws on diverse styles, with country, folk and blues predominant, and rural suffering. Triple J accurately described his sound as "backwoods soul music". Farren's expressive tenor voice takes centre stage on the stark and evocative 'Chickabee' ("Rains don't come and the crops all fail / No corn in the crib, no milk in the pail") and 'Go Not Away From Me' ("Come, lay you down again, the stove's gone cold / Lay down and see what heat last night's embers hold"). 'Perdition', featuring resonator slide and electric slide, and lines like "I've lain in serpents' venomed coils / Anointed with unholy oils" has its roots deep in Delta soil. 'Betty On The Wireless", on the other hand, was inspired by a harrowing story heard on Radio National's Life Matters. 'Nasty (Baby's So Mean)', a rollicking c&w spoof, helps to balance the darker stuff on Farren's well-named and well-crafted debut release, 'Repentance Creek'. - Rhythms Corp Pty Ltd


'Firstborn', track on 'Fatherhood' compilation album, 2003, Rawmix.

'Repentance Creek', CD (full album), June 2007, entirely self-produced and independently released.

Currently gaining considerable airplay on local community radio station, Bay FM, 99.9 (www.bayfm.org) ; featured album on Hobart's 7THE 92.1 FM's (www.7the.org) 'Mostly Folk' show and playlisted for several months consecutively on Western Australia's Down Unda Thunda radio (http://downundathundaradio.com.au)



Raised in Dublin on a cultural stew of Irish ballads, his elder sister’s Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash records and sixties and seventies pop music on the radio, Karl’s influences have always been diverse. Having cut his musical teeth in countless informal sessions in Dublin, Karl later played guitar and sang with bands in Dublin and London, playing music ranging from Steely Dan covers to self-styled ‘Pimp Rock’ (this latter occupying a strange netherworld triangulated by Isaac Hayes, The Pixies and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion).

Since moving to Australia in 1998, Karl has continued to be involved in music. In 2003 his song, Firstborn, featured on the Fatherhood compilation (www.fatherhood-cd.org), alongside songs by Paul Kelly, John Butler, Archie Roach and Tex Perkins.

Having been nominated for a Dolphin Award (NCEIA) for Saddle Road in 2004 and The Fixer in 2005, Karl took the Folk category award in 2006 for Pilgrim Song. The Fixer also earned Karl a nomination as a finalist in the Folk category of the 2006 National MusicOz Awards. Betty On The Wireless, inspired by a story heard on the ABC’s Life Matters, received airplay and Karl was interviewed live on the program in October 2005. In the 2007 Dolphin Awards, Karl received no fewer than FOUR nominations, including one for the prestigious ‘Album Of The Year Award’. ‘Repentance Creek’ was also nominated in the ‘Production/Engineering’ category and Karl had two songs nominated: ‘No-One Ever’ in the ‘Country’ category, and ‘The Fixer’ in ‘Folk’.

A charismatic and engaging live performer, he has been steadily building a loyal local following. Highlights include appearances at the inaugural Fatherhood festival, where he was invited onstage to sing with Jimmy Little and Archie Roach, and the inaugural Bangalow Pacific Songwriters Festival. Karl is co-founder of the Mullumbimby Folk Club, a monthly non-profit event set up in February 2005 to provide an intimate showcase for original songwriting.

Karl is proud to announce the independent release in June 2007 of his debut album, Repentance Creek. Featuring ten original compositions, the album draws on Karl’s diverse influences, unified by his songwriting craft, his melodic gift and his deep roots in a lyrical tradition.

This is backwoods soul music: melodic, lyrical and contemporary, yet rooted in an older, mythic soil; a rich and ancient sediment of storytelling and folk memory. Karl threads his bruised tenor voice, alternately warm and honeyed or scuffed and worn as a favourite old leather jacket, through acoustic and resonator guitars, drums, double bass, Hammond, Wurlitzer, fiddle and mandolin. Whether testifying like a revival tent preacher or intimating in a tender falsetto, his finely-crafted songs take you on a journey from the grit of working-class Dublin, through the peat bogs of an Irish glen to the red earth of the Australian bush; from the cool of a back porch in the Appalachians to the funky heat of the Mississippi delta.

Here's what audience members have to say about Karl:

"..a very accomplished and magical performer. I've seen people swoon at his love songs"
- Alison Pearl, concert promoter, director Summersong Music Camp

"...I don't know anyone else that can make a whole audience hold their breath with emotion and sheer joy..."
- J.H., Brisbane

"...a saviour to the hungry soul..."
- L.N., Mullumbimby

“...a truly great performer, charming, witty, and poignantly beautiful, you will be laughing out loud one minute and choking back tears the next...a true master craftsman when it comes to songwriting...”
- M.N., Ocean Shores