Chicago vocalist Deitra Farr is so versatile that it's a misnomer to call her singing soul-blues. She's equally comfortable with ballads, pop music, soul, and blues, and she presents a delightful combination of all these styles on her debut record, The Search Is Over. Farr spent her childhood listening to the radio and the soul music of the late '60s and early '70s. She began singing in the choir at the Catholic grade school she attended, and by the time she was a senior in high school, she was singing with her uncle's band. Farr also sang with another local band for fun, but music was still an avocation for her.
Farr first stepped into the recording studio when she was 18 as a vocalist for Jimmy Mayes' band, Mill Street Depot. The single "You Won't Support Me" got airplay around Chicago and sparked her enthusiasm for a career as a singer. After she graduated from Columbia College (in Chicago) with a degree in journalism, Farr met piano player Erwin Helfer. Helfer had learned from and played with people like Willie Mabon, Little Brother Montgomery, and Sunnyland Slim. Farr began sitting in with Helfer's trio before landing a gig of her own at Kingston Mines in Chicago. She began drawing crowds to her shows, helped in no small measure by the fact that she had legendary names sitting with her, people like Homesick James, Louis Myers, and Sunnyland Slim.
Farr sang on Dave Specter's debut, Bluebird Blues, in 1991, and a Japanese record company, DIW, included her on a compilation of Chicago blues artists called Chicago Blues Nights. She also can be heard on Chicago's Finest Blues Ladies, a compilation for the Wolf Records label, which got her noticed overseas and allowed her to tour in Europe. Farr's career shifted into high gear after she hooked up with the band Mississippi Heat in 1993 and recorded two albums with them, Learned the Hard Way (1993) and Thunder in My Heart (1995). Her debut for the London-based JSP Records, The Search Is Over, produced by guitarist/impresario Johnny Rawls, was released in 1997. Her vocals were smooth and confident, and her songs covered a broad thematic landscape. ~ Richard Skelly
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