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Photo courtesy of Frank Ockenfels

John Campbell's music is loved by the fans that remember his live performances, by those who knew him personally, and those of us who listen to his recordings and sense something deeper and more resonant than what you find in today's pop, jazz, rock, or blues recordings. I was hooked the first time I played Howlin Mercy. It remains my favorite CD to this day. I am not a fan of the traditional delta blues. But, I can listen to John's two acoustic recordings in an endless loop. There was just something about John Campbell that bent the lines between rock and blues. John often said that One Believer was an exorcism of sorts, for him. Listening to Howlin Mercy felt like that for me. It was scary, but, once I calmed down - I really appreciated its passion and energy. My feelings about that record run deep. I think Howlin Mercy is a spiritual masterpiece that expresses a profound statement about the nature of life.

Unfortunately, most critics just didn't get it. One fan commented that you don't often realize greatness when you first see it. Maybe he's right. And only time will provide confirmation of John Campbell's greatness. I hope so. When he was alive, too much was made of his vocal style or the influence of voodoo or the references to classical blues mythology in his songwriting. Someone should have reminded them, "It's the music, Stupid." Everyone recognized John Campbell's brilliance with the guitar. But, too often the critics were distracted by nonsense issues. A good example, was John's recording of "When the Levee Breaks." I felt it was an excellent song that fit the mood the album is trying to convey. What did it matter if it sounded more or less like Led Zeppelin or more or less like the original recording by Memphis Minnie?

The photo is used with the Permission of Frank Ockenfels
Photo copyright 1993


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Copyright 2005, Thomas Geiger
Revised: January 15, 2005