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Singer-songwriter Kate Campbell has long been one of those whose work I have championed. Her studious songs are of the kind that edge their way to one’s heart, opposed to knocking you sideways or hitting you front on with some hooky lyric or infectious melody. Although she can do this too! Strong and unbending in voice and, lyrically Kate Campbell has an inbuilt ability to transfer the listener deep into the heart of America’s South in double quick time. Supported on the two nights playing live in Texas by dobro ace Sally Van Meter (background vocals) and the versatile Scott Ainslie (guitar, banjo, tambourine, background vocals) plus Don Porterfield on bass and harmony vocals the guitar and piano playing Campbell sings of cotton fields, poor black women struggling against the tide of hatred and segregation. Of when they called in the Nation Guard in Alabama during a time when there was a coloured line for black people and people were hankering for a change of how they were treated when thy stood up for their rights. Kate saw all this and more better than most white girls through her father. Who as a preacher met all kinds and viewed them all the same and on top of this there were days when as a child the family rode took trips in a Galaxie 500; talking of trips ‘Jesus And Tomatoes’ is a humorous piece that was inspired by a sign spotted at a roadside fruit and vegetable stall in west Carolina (she doesn't say whether it was, north or south). Another that speaks of the lure of the road is ‘See Rock City’. That rattles along at a nifty lick as she speaks in romantic terms of feeling the wind through her hair and through her weaving together spare stark southern textures that take in folk, blues, gospel and country. A good example of her work is the vibrant, Dobro prompted ‘Genesis Blues’ that has her claim ‘it all started with the blues’ and if you were from the deep South it is a logical assumption.
During the course of the shows Campbell speaks of ‘Tupelo’s Too Far’ (1996) being her breakthrough song even though she had been writing since she was a child ‘it felt like I was getting somewhere with this and ended it up the way I wanted it’. Meanwhile ‘Rosa’s Coronas / Lanterns of the Levee’ takes the listener on a trip, by boat from Havana to the United States as she speaks of the art of rolling them prior to her edging along the levee and of how lanterns will shine.
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