Husband and wife duo bake a sweet dessert with help from some tasty friends and breathe new life into Brit Blues.
First a confession- I’m not an expert on British Blues or any Blues for that matter. However the protaganists that I do know, listen to and enjoy are generally regarded as the crème de la crème of the movement. Even with my limited knowledge of the genre, I see no reason why the Starlite Campbell Band should not join that elite.
To me, the Blues is like Folk music in that it’s been revered and followed by many for generation after generation but has never achieved massive popular acclaim. There’s no doubt they’re very close cousins and there’s an overlap with many of its practitioners with the music often handed down over the years to be played traditionally or reworked, retooled, tweaked and modernised to keep it fresh and attract new followers.
My first ever gig was at the Bridlington Spa with an old school mate to see legendary (I don’t think that’s too strong a word) Irish Blues guitarist Rory Gallagher. I’m not stretching it to say it’s probably still one of my top five gigs. That led to me investigating Peter Green (with and without Fleetwood Mac), Robin Trower, Paul Kossof (my second gig was to see Crawler, who were previously Back Street Crawler, the post Free band that Kossoff formed) and later the likes of Seasick Steve. Then there were those that infused the Blues with the likes of hard rock (Zeppelin, Sabbath) and folk (Davy Graham, Bert Jansch etc).
Anyway, now I’ve confessed, let’s get down to this album. Both Simon Campbell and Suzy Starlite have been on the music scene for some time, the former as a solo artist and with previous bands Little Brother and Disciples and the latter with Meggido and Starlite. After what’s described as a ‘whirlwind musical romance’ they married in 2014 and started writing/recording this album in early 2016. Songwriting and vocal duties are shared, Campbell playing lead and rhythm with Starlite on bass and acoustic guitar.
Opener ‘Walkin’ Out The Door’ pretty much sums up what is to come- taut rhythm section underpinned with some sterling Hammond organ and exceptional guitar work. It’s traditional but fresh and inventive, tremolo to the fore with some clipped rhythm guitar and searing lead a la Richard Thompson.
Funky bass and delicious organ (reminiscent of the Three Dog Night song ‘Mama Told Me Not to Come’) introduce ‘I Need A Light’ with some prog-ish lead adding another dimension to the frothy mix. The following ‘You’re So Good’ has a harder Cream like riff and a teasing lyric, the third vocal on the trot from the impressive Campbell.
A slow burning blues follows to ease the tempo, with the solo proudly flagging the virtuosity of its performer. ‘Say What You Want’ chugs along nicely, powered by some nice interplay between lead and harmonica. Title track ‘Blueberry Pie’ introduces some fluid acoustic and slide guitars in a Ry Cooder style with a lyric that reminisces about lost traditions (Grandma’s blueberry pie is a constant) and a hope for good things in the future.
Starlite takes up vocal duties on ‘Guilty’, a mid-tempo blues with the singer pleading her acceptance of things and perhaps regretting not acting on her beliefs- in a relationship, maybe in the bad things happening around her? ‘Empire’ is close to the sort of music that attracted me to the Blues in the first place at that Rory Gallagher gig, magnificent in its insistent riffing.
Campbell turns into a grumpy old man with ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’, listing all the things he doesn’t need as he’s got better things to do with his life. Come on- it is the Blues after all.
And so it goes—through ‘Shimmy’ a rather swinging instrumental showcase for all the musicians involved and ‘Thrill You’ which closes proceedings splendidly with one of those compositions that allows the musicians (and vocalist) to thrive within the confines of the song without overpowering it with over indulgence. Like much of the album, it has much to impress and admire while retaining the soul and beating heart that is the key component in making the blues work. And that’s where this album stands apart, each song containing a good balance of the key ingredients of technical prowess and a deep felt love of the tradition of the Blues- the baton has been passed on and is thriving, growing and being nurtured in very good hands.
The album is available on Supertone Records, worldwide release date is February 1st 2017.