I was more than a little surprised to hear Kate Campbell's new CD open with a song George Harrison would've loved to claim for his own. Few take heed of Harrison, and I can't think of a single female composer who's emulated him at all. Slotting that title tune right at the opening was a wise idea, as she follows it with a John Hartford-ish Welcome to Ray, taking a left turn perfectly balanced, Carl Jones' banjo centering everything.
Campbell has earned the respect of heavy-hitters John Prine, Nanci Griffith, Mac McAnally, Spooner Oldham, and Pierce Pettis, all of whom appear here, backing her folk-country strains. Not hard to figure out why, as there's a purity and simplicity not easily had elsewhere. Campbell bases much of her lyrics in writers Harper Lee, Joan Didion, Eudora Welty, Thomas Merton, and other estimables, but her music is quite Hemingway-esque, unencumbered by over-elaboration or mega-production, laying back in warm but spacious wheatfields, billowing skies opening above, slow plains breezes counterpointing their celestial cousins below.
Then there's the Joni Mitchell-ish Color of Love bringing back the 70s and the superb Looking for Jesus, a great addition to the modern rethinking of the Christ's example and his followers' complete failure to comprehend it. Saint John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila help inform Campbell's spirituality, as does the previously mentioned Merton, resulting in the gently biting:
Well, I heard about a man who saw his face
There's a picture of the Shepherd hanging there
Witty gal. I detect a bit of Thomas a Kempis as well, but then there's the futurist side:
Oh, it's time to go back to the moon
The title, of course, is "Back to the Moon" and it recalls Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends in its easy-goingly deceptive depths. In fact, because Sidewalk goes over so well with students, I'm going to start using Back to the Moon in their poetry interpretation lessons.
Save the Day is a disc for those who have been searching for the crossroads between the folk and country genres, for the meeting place that was lost as the 80s drowned everything in punk. Kate Campbell joins Joni, Joan, and Judy…and not a moment too soon. However, glance at the writing credits below and you'll notice that producer / co-engineer Walt Aldridge heavily influences her work, so accolades go out to him as well…and if that's his voice duetting with her on Looking for Jesus, yow!
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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