Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina
The Angel’s Message to Me
Capitan Records CD
Most probably know Geoff Farina better for his work in the indie rock genre with outfits Karate and Secret Stars; likewise, Chris Brokaw is associated with Come and Codeine. But both have worked solo in recent years. Here, the guitarists record unplugged renditions of acoustic blues and old gospel tunes.
The textures that the duo make are beguiling, evocative of such acoustic luminaries as Robbie Basho, Richard Bishop, and Stephen Basho-Junghans. Occasionally, their performances, particularly the vocals, demonstrate a bit less swing than the originals tend to favor. A case in point is the title tune, a piece by Reverend Gary Davis in which Farina and Brokaw emphasize an undulating groove with considerably limpidity. It’s an adroit rendering, yet one certainly feels that it lacks a bit of heft. Another potential stumbling block is their preference for major thirds instead their flatted cousin, the ‘blues third;’ this may make for easier tuning of harmony singing but as a result things sound less gritty.
That said, it is clear that both guitarists are well schooled in the source genre. And occasionally, they provide alternatives to the expected choices that are most pleasing. An example is their rendition of “In the Evening,” where tasty chord voicings substitute for standard blues progressions, shedding new light on an old classic. In addition, on “Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger,” they bring the vocal line back to its essence, closer to its original notation in the 19th Century Sacred Harp, denuding it of a lot of dross that’s accumulated in successive renditions over the years. For “reformed” blues lovers instead of purists, The Angel’s Message in Me is nevertheless on the whole a successful venture.