TYLER FARR COMBINES VOCAL PROWESS WITH A POWERFUL BAND
When award season comes around, there’s always talk of the best voices in country music. Typically, some deserving candidates are left off that list. Tyler Farr had vocal surgery earlier this year and was forced to give his vocal chords an extended rest to recover. Returning to the road this summer on Brad Paisley’s Life Amplified Tour, Tyler’s voice has taken on a starring role. His stage personality is engaging, and his band harnesses the power of an F/A -18 Hornet, but his post-surgery voice now commands center stage. I’d seen Tyler a number of times prior to this procedure, but this past Friday night at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, VA, was the first time I heard him flex that new voice in person. As he was singing “Damn Good Friends,” a collaboration with Jason Aldean off his 2015 album, Suffer in Peace, I was focused on a damn good voice.
Country music seems to be looking for its next Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, guys whose voices were made for three chords and the truth recordings. They want a tough guy that lives what he sings and bleeds conviction. In their search for that rugged image, they’d be wise not to overlook Tyler Farr. He tends to fly under the radar when it comes to accolades and recognition, but his personality and his voice back up those lyrics like a wingman in a dogfight. He locks on to the tone the song needs and delivers a vocally flawless ballad as easily as he can belt out a “C.O.U.N.T.R.Y.” anthem that sounds mud-coated and whiskey-soaked. He can evoke pain and heartache through vocal inflection and the strings of his own acoustic accompaniment. With his band backing him for most of the set, it’s a power combination that’s just as likely to wow with finesse as to outgun your expectations with the force of their musicianship. Call it badass country for the 21st century.
In every Tyler Farr performance, there are elements that surprise me. If you’re expecting a one-dimensional singer, you’ve misjudged him for a stereotype. His set list Friday night favored the ballad over bro country, the nostalgia of “Our Town” over the one-size-fits-all small town cliché. Every song is personal, and his vocals expose that connection. He takes the time to connect with his audience, pointing out similarities and identifying with who they are. His sweet spot is in that common ground. By the end of his set, there’s the feel of a shared experience. The low growl that used to define his voice is now just a single facet of it. He shattered the notion of being a one-trick pony with one song, “Whiskey in My Water.” It’s off his 2013 debut album, Redneck Crazy, but it’s a new song in 2016. The lyrics remain the same, but the clarity in his tone was breathtaking. He hit the highest point in the song with a new found octave, sailing smoothly over the notes without a ripple of disturbed air, an ambush of vocal serenity. No longer can you back Tyler Farr into a vocal corner.
There’s a lot of fun and varying degrees of emotion in Tyler’s set list, whether he’s “Redneck Crazy,” going through “Withdrawals,” or asking for lights up and vocal support when “A Guy Walks into a Bar.” His latest single, “Our Town,” allows him to dig into his roots and showcase his geographical DNA. How he plays well with others is evident in his connection to his band. Tyler doesn’t put these four guys on stage to go unnoticed. If he did, he would have chosen much differently. Though they can blend in seamlessly when the song calls for that, they can also individually and collectively command an audience. It’s not showmanship for the sake of it, it’s musicianship by nature. Gary Jannaman (lead guitar), Dirk Weaver (guitar), Mark Caldwell (bass), and Mark Poiesz (drums) weren’t drafted into service to emulate a country band. They’ve come to define their own role with the creative license Tyler gives them. They support his vocal efforts and he feeds off of the musical energy they supply him with. The power in that collaboration is something few bands achieve, and Tyler doesn’t overlook its importance. Their goal is to leave an impression, and they never fail to do that.
If there’s one thing that defines Tyler Farr’s voice, it’s the truth he conveys with it. Prior to his surgery, he was somewhat limited in how he could express that truth. Post-op, he’s had a chance to convey his truth in a softer, wider range. Sometimes his muse may be the right song, a lone guitar, and the strength of his solitary vocal. When he prefers an arsenal, his band provides that, and his voice commands it. One song in particular brought the vocalist, his band, and the audience to the same moment of truth. He asked for lights up and began the acoustic intro. The moment he started singing, goosebumps ran up my arm. When he hit the chorus and the audience joined in, it was everything a concert experience should be, and a scene country music should covet – great song, powerful vocalist, highly skilled band, and an audience that sees more than alcohol choices and clichés when #aguywalksintoabar. Country music isn’t lacking its next torchbearer. They’ve just been looking in the wrong direction.
Visit Tyler Farr’s website: https://tylerfarr.com/
Suffer in Peace is available on iTunes:
Tyler’s new single, “Our Town,” is available on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/our-town/id1152645666?i=1152645801
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