Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kelly Carmichael's "Queen Fareena" Recalls Skiffle Bands

With an interest in both acoustic blues and old time string band music, one-time hard rock guitarist, Kelly Carmichael brings this unusual background to his skittle band styled performances on his new release Queen Fareena (Doghouse Records).

Carmichael was born in Tennessee, raised near Atlanta and lived near Frederick, Maryland since 1980 when he first heard some old country blues. A multi-instrumentalist, he plays guitar, banjo, xylophone and bones on this set with a small rhythm section and accompanists on accordion, fiddle or brass on various tracks, creating a fascinating recording.

The small group arrangements provide fresh, if sometimes messy sounding, settings for songs from Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, Robert Johnson, Blind Blake and others. Hurt’s Richmond Women Blues, opens and Brad Simms’ accordion gives it some Louisiana spice, while Gary Davis’ She’s Funny That Way, features some traditional jazz sounding brass. Robert Johnson’s Last Fair Gone Down, is done almost as a strutting ragtime string band piece with nice fiddle by Alexander Mitchell. Rev. Davis’ Cincinnati Flow Rag also sports trumpet and trombone providing a somewhat cluttered accompaniment.

Salty Dog, credited to John Hurt, is an old standby of the traditional jazz field and bluegrass, but Papa Charlie Jackson’s medicine band-hokum recording is evoked by the jazzy here, with Scott Rich’s muted trumpet effective, with more of the same flavor on Come On Boys Let’s Do That Messin’ Around, and Sylvester Weaver’s Guitar Rag, has a bit of old time country flavor with Carmichael’s dobro playing and Mitchell’s fiddle.

Carmichael is an adept musician, and a capable singer but many of the performances would have benefited from a bit less cluttered backing (the drummer might have played lighter and simpler accompaniments for example). Even if not compelling, Queen Fareena, will appeal to many including fans of skiffle band music and the revivalist jug bands of the folk revival. This cd is available at

This review was written in 2009 (and a few minor changes made) but I do not believe it was ever published. My review copy was provided by a publicist.

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