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Reviews: 1991 Performances


Los Angeles - Roxy

Excerpt from: "Clapton joins guitarist Guy on stage; Even harried Roxy waitresses become engrossed in the music; [FINAL Edition]" by Fred Shuster

Montreal Gazzette, September 6, 1991

Earlier, concert opener John Campbell and his trio offered a charged set of original country-blues-flavored rock 'n' roll. There's an authentic haunted quality to Campbell, and when he sings, "I've got the devil in my closet, and the wolf is at my front door," it's clear you wouldn't want to house-sit at his place.

Copyright 1991 Los Angeles Daily News


Benson & Hedges - Costa Mesa - Pacific Ampitheatre

Excerpt from: "Blues Players Grind Out Soulful Day" by Cary Darling

The Orange County Register , June 9, 1991

More intriguing was singer/guitarist Campbell who was the only performer on the bill to play acoustic blues. Accompanied only by a rhythm guitarist, Campbell's growling vocals and bleak lyricism ("Devil in My Closet") recalled the dark, haunted visions of Robert Johnson.

Copyright 1991 Orange County Register


Excerpt from: "O.C. BLUES REVIEW Marathon Songfest Delivers Much of What Was Promised" by Mike Boehm

Los Angeles Times, June 10, 1991

The two newcomers, Campbell and Pryor, both have major-label releases due out this summer. Campbell, accompanied only by a rhythm guitarist, played slide style on a tarnished old National steel guitar. While he didn't show the mastery of a John Hammond, his assaultive instrumental attack and leathery howl of a voice kept the energy level up. A song about the drive-by killing of a 6-year-old was stark and obsessive, if predictable in its imagery. Another highlight was a bracing instrumental finale that evoked a freight train's clatter.

Copyright 1991 Los Angeles Times


Benson & Hedges - Dallas Blues Festival

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 16, 1991

Excerpt from: "Show Proves B.B. is Still King" by Dave Ferman

Acoustic bluesman John Campbell, who began the day with a five-song set, was a real highlight: His slide playing, especially, is world-class. Too bad so few people showed up early enough to see it.

Copyright 1991 Fort Worth Star Telegram


Dallas Morning News, June 18, 1991

Excerpt from: "A Feast Of The Blues Etta James Stands Out In An All-Star Field At Benson & Hedges Fest" by Brad Buchholz

One of the most engaging sets was the first -- an undiluted blues guitar display by Louisiana native John Campbell, whose debut American album will be released by Elektra Records this summer.

Playing a 60-year-old National Duolian guitar and accompanied only by an electric guitar, Mr. Campbell wowed the crowd with some savage fretwork and a wonderful percussive sense that was reminiscent of both Lightnin' Hopkins and Ry Cooder. Mr. Campbell has a dramatically lean physique; his features are very sharp and angular.

And so, too, is his singing and playing. His jangling, tumultuous instrumental finale, Blind Willie Johnson's Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground was the most spine-tingling guitar performance of the day.

Copyright 1991 Dallas Morning News


Mississippi Nights - Opening Act for the Subdudes

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 12, 1991

Excerpt from: "John Campbell, Subdudes Electrify The Audience" by Terry Perkins.

THERE were plenty of acoustic instruments in evidence at Mississippi Nights Tuesday evening, from the accordion, guitar and tambourine of the Subdudes to opening act John Campbell's national steel guitar.

But the music that these musicians produced on these instruments certainly was electric in terms of energy and excitement.

John Campbell, whose debut album, ''One Believer,'' was released this week, came out smoking with some of the finest blues guitar playing I've heard in some time.

A native of Shreveport, La., Campbell appeared as part of the Benson & Hedges Blues festival held in St. Louis three years ago, playing a fine solo guitar set as part of an evening of traditional acoustic blues that featured legends such as St. Louis' own Henry Townsend.

This time around, Campbell was backed by a solid, smoking quartet that included Davis McLarty on drums, Jim Pettit on bass and Zander Kennedy on guitar. Campbell's set concentrated on original tunes from his debut recording, such as ''Devil in My Closet,'' ''Wild Streak'' and ''Take Me Down.''

His work on acoustic guitar was certainly smooth and skillful, but when he took out his national steel guitar and began to use his skill as a slide player, Campbell really caught fire. On a tune called ''Person to Person,'' Campbell showcased a wide variety of Deep South guitar styles, then brought them together in a full-throttle boogie that brought the crowd to its feet.

Copyright 1991 St. Louis Post-Dispatch


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 2, 1992

Excerpt from: "Post Reviewers Pick Their Top 10 Concerts Of 1991" by Terry Perkins.

John Campbell - Mississippi Nights � September 1991

Bluesman Campbell was the opening act for the Subdudes. But after a burning set that featured some of the hottest guitar licks and spookiest vocals I've heard in years, the excellent Subdudes never stood a chance.

Copyright 1991 St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Park West - Opening Act for the Subdudes

Chicago Tribune, September 13, 1991

Excerpt from: "Forget drums, the Subdudes Make Their Own Kind of Music" by Greg Kot.

Another transplanted Louisiana native, John Campbell, opened with a set of dirty slide guitar, accompanied by a jacked-up, three-piece band.

Campbell gave the country blues a shot of contemporary horror, especially when he opened one song with these lines: "Takes a tiny coffin for a 6-year-old/It takes a small hole in the ground." These stark images were a match for his ferocious guitar-playing.

Although Campbell didn't stretch much beyond the traditional blues lexicon, he more than did justice to it.

Copyright 1991 Chicago Tribune


Cleveland - Empire - Opening Act for Buddy Guy

Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 16, 1991

Excerpt from: "Working Musician Gives Lesson by Carlo Wolff" by Carlo Wolff

The opening act was almost as hot as the temperature in the club. John Campbell, a lanky 39-year-old guitar master from Shreveport, La., by way of New York City, commanded attention throughout his 45-minute set.

Campbell's debut album, "One Believer," is due out on Elektra this week. Based on such originals as the swampy "Voodoo Edge" and the turbulent slide-guitar workout "Take Me Down," it should be a hummer.

Campbell's baritone voice isn't that distinctive, but it's passionate. His guitar playing is an outrageous blend of insanity and control delivered in a militantly bluesy package.

Campbell has his mojo working and, while not on the Stevie Ray Vaughan level yet, he's more than a contender.

Copyright 1991 Cleveland Plain Dealer


Cleveland Chronicle Telegram, September 16, 1991 p B-7

Excerpt from: "Blues guitarist's show lacks stuff that made him a living legend" by Alana Baranick

Perhaps the contrast between Guy's disappointing segment and that of dynamic opening performer, John Campbell, contributed to that let down feeling. The phenomenal slide guitarist's act was a hard one to follow and one worth catching again. Using a 65-year-old resonator and a jumbo acoustic guitar, Campbell adeptly played everything from boogie-woogie to low-down blues.

Copyright 1991 Chronicle-Telegram


Montreal - Spectrum - Opening Act for Buddy Guy

Montreal Gazzette, October 10, 1991 p B-7

Excerpt from: "Buddy Guy shows why he's called the best" by Mark Lepage

Opener John Campbell is one of the finds of the year, a virtual unknown who won over the packed house with a searing set of hoodoo blues. His well-travelled backroads voice and wild slide guitar bespoke a man who knows something about the other side, and tracks like Wild Streak were shot through with an acrid smell of danger. Bring him back.

Copyright 1991 Montreal Gazzette


Toronto - Bathhurst St. Theatre

Toronto Star, October 14, 1991

Excerpt from: "Buddy Guy works magic in a show to remember" by Peter Howell.

The evening began in monsoon conditions, with rain chilling the bones and inducing a physical state of the blues.

But the bodies heated up quickly when opening act John Campbell from Louisiana got to work. He's not well known in these parts, but after the display of slide guitar magic he put on, he should be welcomed back soon.

Campbell, who cites influences that include late blues greats Leadbelly and Lightnin' Hopkins - in fact, he even plays a 65-year-old National Steel Duolian guitar once owned by Hopkins - shared some of his insights into how to do a proper blues boogie.

"If you want to boogie, you got to do three things: pop, slap and slide - with a beat," he said, attributing that wisdom to a fellow Louisiana bluesman, Parker Bloodsaw.

Copyright 1991 Toronto Star


New York City - Beacon Theatre

Newsday, October 22, 1991

Excerpt from: "Hooker's Blues Set to Forget" by John Anderson.

By contrast, the music of John Campbell, the acoustic guitarist from Louisiana, represents a darker and more fully realized vision. As open and accessible as Ellis is, Campbell is haunted and brooding, more like Hooker at his primeval best. Unlike Hooker, however, Campbell's band gave him just the right support and provided his virtuosic slide guitar playing all the room it needed to make its point.

Copyright 1991 Newsday


Billboard, November 23, 1991

Excerpt from: "John Lee Hooker - Buddy Guy - Tinsley Ellis - John Campbell" by Gene Santoro.

By contrast, John Campbell overcame some shaky interplay between his singing and playing to offer a more focused and rewarding Chicago-style ensemble blues with lyrical twists � witness �Tiny Coffin� on his �One Believer� album from Elektra. By the end of his set, after mixing up what he described as �Leadbelly�s piano style, Texas banjo style, and Mississippi Delta bottleneck� into a slash-and-burn round robin, Campbell had earned his applause.

Copyright 1991 Billboard


Boston, MA - The Channel

Boston Herald, October 27, 1991

Excerpt from: "Buddy Guy - without Clapton - proves his blues" by Dean Johnson

Opener John Campbell, the new kid on the blues block, showed he's the real thing. His riveting slide-guitar work was a nice way to whet the appetite for the main course.

Copyright 1991 Boston Herald


London - Town & Country

Manchester Guardian, November 19, 1991 p 36

Excerpt from: "John Campbell/Buddy Guy" by Robin Denselow

The new blues boom has become big business, with veteran players easing into best sellers, and long established heroes like Buddy Guy able to Pack the T and C for three nights. This rousing show was more evidence that the blues was alive and kicking.

The new scene is already throwing up new bluesmen, and those who plan to see Guy on his current UK tour are advised to go early and to catch the opening act, John Campbell. In leather jacket and long hair, he looks like a dangerous hobo who had somehow gathered a priceless collection of vintage guitars and a powerful rhythm section, and written a batch of stark, evocative songs to match the image.

A fine slide player, he has the features of a voodooman for the Stephen King generation. Songs like the brooding Take Me Down or the menacing Wild Streak will ensure he's back as a headliner next year.

Copyright 1991 Manchester Guardian


Daily Telegraph, November 19, 1991 p 16

Excerpt from: "Laughing Blues" by Tom Pride

A word here, too for the support act, John Campbell, who plays some of the dirtiest blues you'll ever hear from a white man.


Edinburgh, Scotland - Playhouse

London Sunday Times, December 1, 1991

Excerpt from: "Lady sings the blues as Buddy plays system;Jazz;Scotland" by Ninian Dunnett

Much more impressive was the supporting John Campbell band, which looks like a real discovery. Campbell has just recorded his first album after a long apprenticeship in the American clubs, and shows an imaginative grasp of sparse arrangements which is all too rare in contemporary blues.

In the company of his ferociously sharp three-piece band, the Louisana-born 40-year-old finger-picked an amplified acoustic guitar with the intelligent dynamics and gutsy solo-building to knock spots off most tedious guitar heroes.

With the elder statesmen of the blues slipping away into the commercial quagmire, it is a tonic to have newcomers such as Campbell to keep the homefires burning.

Copyright 1991 London Sunday Times


London - Mean Fiddler

Melody Maker, January 11, 1992

Excerpt from: "Elektra Blues Showcase" by John Wilde

Being a white, gangling, middle-aged man from Louisiana, John Campbell needs blues credentials like a boil needs lancing. Somewhat fortuitously, a teenage drag racing accident has left him with a glass eye and 5000 stitches.

Consequently, he posesses a physiognomy that resembles the relief map of Scotland, with every scar, pit and pock-mark willing to tell of the trouble he's seen. With a haggard voice full of dark imaginings, he leads his band through a set of grizzled blues that are rapt when brooding, though highly suspect when they insist on pounding and grinding.

Copyright 1992 Melody Maker


Copyright � 2005, Thomas Geiger
Revised: March 3, 2005