Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Man Of Many Visions

KELLY CARMICHAEL – “Queen Fareena” CD ’09 (Dogstreet, US) – If the name KELLY CARMICHAEL resonates with any fans of especially heavy music who are perusing this update, then well it should. KELLY is the guitarist for Maryland doom metal standouts INTERNAL VOID, a band who have several top-drawer platters to their name, most notably the massive “Matricide,” released just a few years back. His name is also legendary in that he was the six-string killer in PENTAGRAM when the band recorded their “Show ‘Em How” disc. All that is important to know because when you use that as a backdrop in listening to “Queen Fareena,” it only emphasizes how versatile and truly wonderful a musician this guy is. CARMICHAEL branched out in 2005 with his debut solo effort, “Old Stock.” It sported a very nice & surely different sound than we were used to hearing from his leaden Gibson/Marshall vibe of doom. That one was a stripped-down, bare-bones walk into the back room blues of old and we got to see a man pay homage to some of his aged influences while putting his own stamp on ‘em. With “Queen Fareena,” KELLY has not only upped the ante but laid down a record that surely must be among the most original and unique to come through the RAYSREALM mailbox in some time. This time, Mr. CARMICHAEL has taken that old tyme blues feel and used it as a springboard to reach another level. Within the 11 tracks present here, genres like Cajun, country roots, ragtime & Dixieland explode into a Technicolor panorama. Borne on the wings of classics from 80 years ago by names like Robert Johnson & The Rev. Gary Davis, KELLY adds in originals that blend in so well that they show a young man wise way beyond his years. His work on guitar and 6-string banjo here is majorly smokin’ and his vocals are a joy to behold, like Brian Setzer if he was born in 1930 and then got real, real good. Joining him on “Queen Fareena” are Clutch-man Jean-Paul Gaster on drums (always a monster) as well as a well-rounded cast who dish up the upright bass, squeeze box and a brass section to absolutely die for. Highlights abound. I mean, everywhere you turn there is a gem, from the awesome Robert Johnson-penned “Last Fair Deal Goin’ Down” to “Salty Dog” and “Guitar Rag” to the hilarious “Operation Blues” plus Kelly’s own compositions that sit quite comfortably among the awesome history lesson. Funny, like I alluded to at the beginning, KELLY CARMICHAEL may be known to most who read this page as a metal guitarist and the first reaction to him doing this kind of a disc might be one of surprise. On longer listens, however, when you think about the depth and soul to the man’s playing on virtually everything he’s touched, it makes a whole lot of sense. 9.5

FROST* – “Experiments In Mass Appeal” CD ’08 (Inside Out, Eng) – Having already issued a debut record that garnered wide-spread approval in the prog world, FROST* now strikes with “Experiments…,” my first encounter with them. So, dear reader, you ask if I’m ready to line this one up with my dog-eared copies of “Animals” or “Hemispheres?” Probably not, but I like what these guys are doing. Right off the bat, from the opener on, FROST* cast their prog-o-scope as far in the direction of Steven Wilson as they do Steve Hackett and the dichotomy works throughout the 9 numbers included. Similarly, when the band does let the prog metal tweedling off the leash a bit, around say, mid-album, the elder atmospheres of the ‘70’s decade reels it back in. Along with Pure Reason Revolution (who’s sophomore effort I eagerly await), FROST* proves prog can be prog and…well, have some mass appeal. 7.5

DECEIVER – “Thrashing Heavy Metal” CD ’09 (Pulverised, Swe) – Gee, I wonder what this is going to sound like?! Ok, perhaps that’s a bit unfair but it was a good start to a review, wasn’t it? The thing is, it’s not utterly untrue and to go a bit further, that’s not exactly a bad thing. Have you ever longed for the days when the calendar read 1986, you’d worn your “Reign In Blood” & “Bonded By Blood” (geez, lotsa blood there!) tapes to a frazzle and you hadn’t picked up the new Artillery yet? Well, wouldn’t this new CD by DECEIVER been a nice thing to pull out of the glove compartment ?(er…what’s a CD?) Songs like “Blood Of The Soul” (yup, still bloody) and the godly-monikered “Coma Of Death Toxication” rule the day and hey, this guitar cat Pete Flesh (I shit you not) throws in some melodic stuff that actually reminds me of Backwater. Remember them? 7.0

JORMA KAUKONEN – “River Of Time” CD ’09 (Red House, US) – Ah, good ol’ JORMA. Damn, I remember checking the Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pilllow” out of the Baltimore County Library a couple lifetimes ago. Hated it at first ‘cause it didn’t sound like Sabbath. Then I hit a spliff, listened again and dug the West Coast vibe. A few blue moons later, I flipped on Don Kirschner’s and thought for all the world I’d stumbled on a vintage ’72 ZZ Top show. Short-haired dude, distorted Les Paul, blues licks & a set of pipes that were…uh…weird. Kicked ass, man and I learned it was Hot Tuna. What was up with that bass player’s eyebrows, though? Then just a few short years back I wandered into the Ram’s Head in Annapolis when I saw JORMA’s name on the bill. Solo acoustic show & to make a long story short, I went home & put my own Epiphone in the closet for nigh on 6 months. Showed me who was boss, that’s what good ol’ JORMA did & on “River Of Time,” he does it again. No, I don’t own every Airplane, Hot Tuna or solo record Mr. KAUKONEN has laid a hand on. Funny thing is, every time I run across the guy he kicks my butt. “River Of Time” extrapolates upon that same stripped-down acoustic music I witnessed in the state capital. Then it goes ahead & adds in some accompaniment like mandolin, drums, and bass. JORMA & friends run the gamut from trad songs to Merle Haggard & Rev. Gary Davis covers to sweetly spun originals. They all feel wooden, timeless and carry the air of a man who cares and that might be all for you. I said excuse me! That boy can play. 8.0

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