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Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina - Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 21 / 1 / 2011

Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina - Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina


Boston musicians Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina released two albums last year. Malcolm Carter examines both, one, 'The Angel's Message to Me', a collection of North American pre-World War 2 songs and the other, 'The Boarder's Door', an album largely of original compositions

Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina released two albums last year. The first, ‘The Angel’s Message To Me’,is a collection of North American pre-World War 2 songs, many which will be at least a little familiar to most music fans, and this theme merges into the opening two songs on the other album, ‘The Boarder’s Door’. The majority of the songs on the latter album are Brokaw/Farina originals but the opening pair of songs, the Stanley Brothers ‘Little Maggie’ and the traditional ‘Try Me One More Time’ carry on the old-time country/blues style the duo cover so well on ‘The Angel’s Message To Me'. Chris Brokaw is probably best known as a founding member of Codeine and Come while Geoff Farina spent twelve years with the band Karate; they met when Farina used to go to Codeine gigs in Boston. Firstly, to anyone who has yet to hear any work by these two guitarists, you are in for such a treat. Despite both musicians long musical careers before they got together to record the twelve songs on ‘The Angel’s Message To Me’ it feels from the atmosphere that they create throughout the songs and their superb, immaculate guitar playing that it wasn’t only an inspired idea to record the songs together but that this is what both musicians had been building to over the years. It really is a remarkable collection of songs brought to life by the duo’s guitar playing. It’s incredible to think how old these tunes are. Brokaw and Farina really do breathe new life into each and every track. Considering that some of these songs like, ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’, ‘Stagger Lee’ and ‘Poor Wayfaring Stranger’, have been covered so many times by such a wide variety of artists it’s amazing that Brokaw and Farina can bring something new to each and every song. Because certain songs are so familiar and so old it’s difficult to add anything new or interesting that another artist hasn’t tried before. But, mainly through their skill on the guitar, they add a fresh take on these age-old songs while, bizarrely, not diverting too much from the versions we have known for years. It works so well and vocally both artists shine on their respective tracks. So do the new, original songs on ‘The Boarder’s Door’ stand up, not only to the whole of ‘The Angel’s Message To Me’, but to the opening pair of non-original songs which in some ways would seem more at home on the earlier album? Strangely track three which is Geoff Farina’s ‘Hammer and Spade’ actually sounds more like a continuation of that first album than the two preceding age-old songs. Farina’s vocals lack the raspy edge of Brokaw but that’s a good thing, having the contrast between the two vocalists only keeps things more interesting. To be honest there is little to choose between the two albums. Both contain instrumentals where the guitarists shine so brightly. Vocally neither singer fails to impress, the difference in texture between their vocals is appealing to say the least through the course of an album and the albums could be seen as a matching pair in many ways. Due to the familiarity of the songs on ‘The Angel’s Message To Me’ that collection does have the edge over the follow-up ; not that ‘The Boarder’s Door’ is not a fine set of country/blues/folk songs, but it does take some more time before it hits you as hard as the duo’s debut album together did. Start with ‘The Angel’s Message To Me’ and be prepared to be surprised at just how good Brokaw and Farina have made these old songs sound.

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Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina - Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina

Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina - Chris Brokaw and Geoff Farina

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