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Musician explores solo career

March 07, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

The love of music hit Kelly Carmichael early - perhaps it was ordained. After all, he counts famed songwriter Hoagy Carmichael as a distant relative.

The connection to Hoagy, who died in 1981, may be distant, but Carmichael mentions it when he talks about his own roots in music. Even closer to home is his father, who is also musically inclined.

"My dad played guitar and was in bands," Carmichael said. "He taught me my first chords and songs."

A member of a band of "doom rockers" known as Internal Void since 1987, Carmichael is exploring a solo career along more traditional lines. A new CD on his own DogStreet Records label is more roots blues.

The label title seemed a natural for Carmichael who has called Keedysville home for about 10 years. Born in Tennessee, Carmichael, now 37, lived in Oregon and Georgia until 1980 when his family moved to Frederick County, Md.

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His parents, Lucy and Jerry Carmichael, now call Harpers Ferry, W.Va., home. He is living with his parents temporarily but said he expeccts to return soon to Keedysville.

After cutting his musical teeth on the likes of The Ventures and Bill Haley and the Comets, Carmichael got into the Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers, Jethro Tull and Black Sabbath.

Internal Void released its first album in 1992 on what Carmichael described as the international music scene. The group has produced four albums to date, including the most recent "Matricide," he said.

"It's kind of dark but we think of ourselves as blues and jazz as well as 70s-oriented hard rock," Carmichael said.

For most of his years with the group, Carmichael has supported himself by working at other ventures. Currently, he is the owner/graphic artist of Planet Decals, a business that specializes in signs, decals, wearables, promotion items, graphic design and printing services.

"I also illustrate children's books and do graphic design for other's albums," Carmichael said. "It all helps my career."

Now that he is taking his first steps away from the band, Carmichael says his musical career is becoming more of his means of making his living than before.

The debut solo CD, "OId Stock," features Carmichael on acoustic guitar playing what he calls roots blues. "It's Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt and the other founding fathers of blues," he said. "I'm staying traditional to that music."

Some of the songs on that solo CD include "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom," "Evil-Hearted Me," "Beulah Land" and "I Wish I Was In Heaven."

The DogStreet label is solely Carmichael's venture.

In addition to his prowess on the acoustic guitar, Carmichael is also a vocalist. "Last year I had the opening spot for the band 'Clutch' on a tour of the United States. I went over really well," he said of the 13,000-mile trip.

Sometimes, Carmichael's fiancee, Maria Merriman, is his back-up singer.

In a 2005 interview and photo layout in Vintage Guitar magazine, Carmichael said the Internal Void band's style really came together for the CD, "Matricide."

Carmichael said he played a vintage 1962 Les Paul Jr. guitar for that album - an instrument he still plays today. His collection also includes a 1973 Gibson/Les Paul standard.

In the most recent issue of Vintage Guitar magazine, Carmichael earned a positive review on his "Old Stock" CD. Excited about the accolades, Carmichael is eagerly looking forward to a new chapter in his career.

The magazine's reviewer said Carmichael's solo effort represented "fresh insight and a platform for experimentation and musical discovery."

"Things are really starting to happen for me," Carmichael said. "I see a greater chance making a living as a solo."

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