Review: Kelly Carmichael – Queen Fareena

Posted on: Wednesday, Jun 24, 2009

“Queen Fareena”
(Dogstreet Records DOG003)

I suspect very few blues fans will have anything quite like this in their collection.  Kelly Carmichael’s second solo CD is a heady fun-filled gumbo of string-band roots, country blues and ragtime all dished up, in Carmichael’s imagination at least, on a Mississippi riverboat drifting slowly down to old New Orleans.

His old-time six-string banjo and splendid slide guitar are mixed in with a quality accompaniment of sassy horns, occasional accordion and country fiddle, driven along by upright bass and, especially, the constant effervescent shuffle of Jean-Paul Gaster’s drums, creating what is often almost a novelty dance band feel.

Carmichael blurs the ‘public domain’ origin of much of the material with definite nods to the greats.  Mississippi John Hurt’s “Salty Dog” is given a brassy flavour swaying effortlessly from Dixieland to swing. “Cincinatti Flow Rag”, one of three Rev Gary Davis tributes, is actually a chance for Scott Rich’s trumpet and trombonist John McVey to cut loose as they do regularly throughout.  Resonator guitar and fiddle transform Robert Johnson’s “Last Fair Deal Gone Down” into a country two-step.  John Hammond’s “Untrue Blues” will also appeal to readers with great guitar underpinning more of those wonderful horns.

Carmichael has breathed new life into lots of ‘trad arr.’ stuff here but there are a couple of originals. “Booker Blues” grows out of a marching drum beat to big-band jazz with tempo changes aplenty while the album’s title track concerns a turn-of-the-last-century brothel steamboat plying aptly “from Chicago to Louisany” and ends with the neat touch of a steam calliope organ and riverboat horns.

A joyous and raunchy romp. Thoroughly recommended.

John Bottomley

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