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Pam Farrell

The first time I saw Pam Farrell I was struck immediately by the remarkable conviction with which she played and sang. It was at Saratoga Springs' Caffé Lena, but it could have been one of several Chicago venues ... those surviving or long- defunct. Not since the Pentangle has any artist I've heard had the peculiar ability to conjur both the energy of the blues ... the musical mirror of the hopelessness and despair felt in only the blackest hours ... and the live-giving essence of timeless lessons, the feeling of connectedness expressed in Islamic poetry ... and the certainty that nothing whatsoever was certain ... that is to
say, the knowledge that the truth, no matter how painful, would lead to an awakening that would reveal the ultimate falseness of that which pertains to the flesh. Few performers, no matter how talented, how professional, how accomplished musically, can take you to that higher place ... Pam Farrell does this effortlessly, smiling through the tears, if you will, transforming the world around her. Certainly it's in her own songs, like "Light Mountain" or "Dark Angel," but it's also in the way she interprets other artists' material, whether it's contemporary material or something very different. The other thing that struck me was the feeling of contrasts ... she doesn't fit the "mold" of a blues singer, nor of a folk artist ... though you won't understand what I'm talking about without seeing her perform. Because what she does is completely erase the distance between the performer and the audience ... she seems to be, at once, most comfortable on the stage without using the stage itself as a barrier. I guess that's why she doesn't try to do a lot of shows or employ a pushy agent. She said to me that she'll play if she's asked to, which has meant playing benefits here and there. I suspect her own "causes" are quiet and personal. Pam Farrell is serious about her performing skills, but not overly concerned about putting herself across as an artiste or getting her name in lights. She's as much a music fan as anyone else. She says performing is something tribal with her, something that goes a long way back. She'll call it a "hobby." Yet she continues to practice her guitar and her voice lessons ... phone at the right moment, you might hear her scales from the cassette player in the background. She's a "pure" singer, ... with the kind of voice those of us who do a lot of "put-ons" secretly envy, but she's also quite adept at putting us on, too. There's a kind of secret mischief about her, a "Pam- other" that would like to turn the world upside down and shake it just to see what it's been hiding, and that's what she does when she performs, too. As I heard her say once ... hang on, baby, we're in for one wild rollercoaster ride. -- Blind Lemon Joy

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