Chicago bluesman Eddie C. Campbell has been spinning his brand of West Side Chicago blues for several decades. This review of Eddie’s 2009 Delmark album, Tear This World Up, originally appeared in the July 2009 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 318). It was his first album since the 2000 Rooster Blues Cd Hopes & Dreams. Campbell has not recorded that frequently, but has produced some very distinctive recordings. The review copy of this was provided by Delmark Records.
Its been a few years since Eddie C. Campbell, one of the few remaining masters of the West Side Chicago blues style has had a new recording out. Not that he hasn’t merited it, but his understated guitar and laid-back and witty vocals lack the immediate appeal to those more rock-oriented listeners of the blues. His latest album “Tear This World Up,” on Delmark will be welcome to those of us that have been fans of him for decades as well as those that want the real deal blues.
Dick Shurman, who produced Campbell’s classic first album, “King of the Jungle” over three decades ago has assembled a solid studio band including Dairy Golliday on bass, Marty Binder on drums and Karl ‘Lil Daddy’ Outten on keyboards. Mojo Mark Cihlar plays harp on several tracks and several other tracks have a full horn section. One thing that stands out is how uncluttered this recording sounds compared with so many recordings in recent months.
It is refreshing to hear someone handle the blues in such an unfrenzied manner whether the light lyrics of his opening “Making Popcorn;” the rocking “Big World,” a story about meeting this fine lady who wants to show Eddie her big world; and his remake of “Easy Baby,” a tribute to his late friend Magic Sam. All are marked by Campbell’s restrained, yet soulful, vocals with his occasional effective employment of a falsetto, and his crisply played, snap and pop crackling guitar with just a bit of treble and echo.
His playing imparts a rockabilly tinge to Magic Sam’s “Love Me With a Feeling,” with some pretty impressive picking here. In contrast “Vibrations in the Air,” has a lazy Jimmy Reed styled shuffle that few today play with nice harp from Cihlar who also added his atmospheric playing to Campbell’s witty “Voodoo.” “Care,” has a bit of a funk groove and one several selections with a full horn section. Punching horns add to the flavor of the easy walking instrumental shuffle of “It’s So Easy” where Campbell’s snapping guitar playing is also complemented by the organ of Marty Sammon, Buddy Guy’s keyboard player.
Campbell turns Howlin’ Wolf’s “My Last Affair,” into a compelling blues ballad with his genially pleading singing, followed by the rocking rendition of “I’m Just Your Fool,” with horns and harp supporting his terrific rendition of the Buddy Johnson composition, although his performance is modeled after Little Walter’s recording. He evokes Link Wray and the Ventures before getting into another shuffle groove for his rendition of “Summertime,” adding jazzy fills, before closing the album with “Bluesman,”where backed just by his guitar, Eddie sings about being a real bluesman, and having played with everyone from A and Z. But as he sings, you can still hear them in his blues played so direct and honest which is why this recording is so appealing.
BTW, my review of Hope and Dreams can be found on Amazon.com.