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Reviews - A Man and His Blues

Blues Access � Deborah Nigro

Blues Access, Spring 1994 pg 44

Those who knew the late John Campbell only through his recent Elektra releases would do well to seek out this 1988 album. Produced by Ronnie Earl (who guests on several tracks, most notably on Snooky Pryor's "Judgment Day"), it was recorded in Boston with distinguished help from harp ace Jerry Portnoy and drummer Per Hanson. Darrel Nullisch contributes a nice vocal, too.

But, this is Campbell's show and its wonderful. Forget his most recent preoccupation with the dark side of the blues; this album showcases Campbell's ability to bring to life classics like "sunnyland Train" or Lightnin Hopkins' "Bluebird" with warmth and an unusually authentic country blues feel. His own "Deep River Rag" instrumental is totally unlike anything on his last recording, a down home gem. On the laconic, sensuous "White Lightnin'," an old Furry Lewis tune, Campbell's restrained, powerfull guitar work beautifully bolsters his half-spoken, half-sung and positively heartrending vocal. "Sittin' Here Thinkin'," which was written by the artist, has similar appeal.The Elektra products may have more luster, but in many ways, the Cross-Cut effort gives a truer picture of John Campbell's talent. - Deborah M. Nigro

Copyright 1994 Blues Access

Blues & Rhythm � Phil Wight

Blues & Rhythm, May 1991 pg 25

John Campbell is a totally different kettle of fish - it's blues all the way from Texas (Lightnin Hopkins "Bluebird") through to Chicago (Snooky Pryor's "Judgment Day" and Elmore James "Sunnyland Train). Thirty-six year old Campbell originally hails from Shreveport, grew up on a diet of Lightnin Hopkins records, started on guitar as a youngster and eventually moved to Texas in his teens.

He played with Gatemouth Brown and Son Seals, but serious health problems caused an extended break from performing. Eventually, he got things going again and in New York met Ronnie Earl who was so impressed by what he heard that he decided to record Campbell, and the result is this CD. Produced by Earl, he also plays guitar on some cuts, and Muddy's ex-harpman Jerry Portnoy also plays on two sides.

Campbell is a brilliant guitarist (he plays acoustic fitted with pickup), a fine singer, very influenced by Lightnin Hopkins. Immediately obvious on one listen to "Going to Dallas" or "Bluebird." He is also confident in the ragtime style ("Deep River Rag"). On "Judgment Day" the vocal is by Darrell Nullisch, and Earl and Campbell alternate solos. Earl takes the lead on an acoustic version of "Sunnyland Train" and the set ends with a stunning version of Furry Lewis's "White Lightnin'". Four Campbell originals and five covers in this nicely balanced set of mainly Texas style blues - strongly recommended. - Phil Wight

Copyright 1991 Blues and Rhythm

Copyright � 2003, Thomas Geiger
Revised: July 26, 2003