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Voodoo Blues by Andy Bradshaw

Rock World, February 1993 p 58
By Andy Bradshaw

JOHN CAMPBELL is one of the most distinctive blues players since Stevie Ray Vaughn, reckons Andy Bradshaw who was blown away by Campbell's neww album 'Howlin Mercy' and simply had to speak to him.

John Campbell had his face pieced together with 5,000 stitches and lost his right eye when he was in his teens. This is a man with a reason to play the blues.

The first time I heard the music of John Campbell, I was lying in a darkened hotel room in New York. It was an advance tape of 'Howlin Mercy'. Maybe the lights should have been on, because the sound of Campbell's deep, wolfman voice growling its frightening intensity over spartan chords, scared the living shit out of me. This is confessional blues from the crypt of imagination.

"The accident was a big turning point in my life," says Campbell, a surprisingly jocular character in real life. "It effected me deeply and caused me to withdraw into myself. I picked up a guitar during my recuperation, and started playing Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and John Lee Hooker songs. I remember the moment when I realised that I would be playing the blues for the rest of my life." Campbell was into drag racing in his mid-teens. The crash happened in the best tradition of events of great import, on a dark and rainy night. He lost control of the car. "I smashed into a telephone pole at high speed, the accelerator stuck and I bounced in and out of the windshield thee times."

After this he tried to fit back into normal school life, but, "I couldn't handle it. I then became a disciple of the blues." And so this song of Shreveport, Louisiana went out into the wilderness, playing clubs in the deep south, out of the eye of record companies, learning his craft. It was only a matter of time, however, before he was noticed playing in a club and subsequently signed to Elektra. His first album, 'One Believer' is an almost disturbingly frank account of his struggles to deal with isolation and readjustment forced upon him by the accident. Other imagery includes references to the voodoo tradtions of the deep South. Why is this?

"I'm a hoodoo man," he says simply. "And yes, I have my mojo. There is a lot of magic in music and there are a lot of elements of that in my music." - Andy Bradshaw

Copyright � 2003, Thomas Geiger
Revised: July 23, 2003