Blues Revue USA: Celtic Blues
Having recently seen John Campbelljohn’s strong band performance at this year’s (2011) edition of the Mont Tremblant Blues Festival, I was really looking forward to his latest release. This solid and masterful solo performance was recorded live in Hamburg, Germany, and features sixteen songs, eleven originals and five covers, augmented by outstanding sound quality. This performance opens with two strong originals “No Philosopher” and “Non Conformist Blues” then shifts to a creative cover of Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen.”
The title track comes in two flavors: “Part One,” referred to as (Toni’s Brook), is a glorious bit of instrumental storytelling. “Part Two” of the title track (The Big Dig) is somewhat similar to “Part One” in that it’s another gorgeous instrumental. “Sonny Sky Slide” is another evocative, original instrumental that features Campbelljohn’s whistling which easily convinces the crowd to join in. It’s obvious that Campbelljohn knows how to work the crowd well, even making comical references to Woodstock, which the attentive audience loved. Things grow darker and less whimsical on Campbelljohn’s “Knocked Down,” that segues nicely to Rory Gallagher’s “Going To My Hometown,” and then it’s onto Robert Johnson’s “Steady Rolling Man.” Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster” shows off Campbelljohn’s strong vocals and adds howling choruses. Chuck Berry’s “Don’t You Lie To Me” is another crowd pleaser with some sparkling slide. The closing original “Autobahn John” is a seemingly appropriate nod to the German audience, and it motors like a fine-tuned six-cylinder BMW. Campbelljohn is more than worthwhile to research and digest. He’s clever, inventive, powerful, entertaining, and unique. He’s definitely a musician who is far more worthy of wider notoriety, an artist who’s a rare gem.
– Bob Putignano