Review: John Campbelljohn – Chin Up

Posted on: Saturday, Apr 11, 2015

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John Campbelljohn – Chin Up

(Nood Records NOOD010)

The twelfth release by Cape Breton slide guitar king John Campbelljohn is no less than a joyous tour de force. A self-produced, mixed bag of blues styles, the album oozes so much well-placed confidence it almost swaggers but Campbelljohn’s dexterity remains subtle and classy throughout. All the songs are original, mainly co-penned, while he has assembled a top backing crew yet plays all guitars himself.

His slide starts talking straight at you as opener ‘The Mumble Boogie’ swings in above Ronald Hynes’ rolling bass and remains expressive for the whole of the set. The punchy ‘Meet My Maker’ sees Campbelljohn stumbling towards judgement day while duelling with himself on guitar and dobro.

The punchy becomes the funky on the highly original ‘The Poor Man Pays’ so much so in fact that it should carry a ‘slap bass’ alert. ‘Castaway’ again features guitars aplenty and a short but ferocious solo as a finale. But there’s humour too. ‘How Stupid Is That’ is the sort of country-sentiment confessional which wouldn’t sound out of place in a bar in downtown Nashville.

‘Stop Making Excuses’ is rolling blues rock in which Campbelljohn finally lets himself go with some expressive and biting guitar which, thankfully, he continues as ‘Sally In The Alley’ rocks in with an insistent shuffle. Sally, it turns out, is only in the alley because she’s lying there, wasted on drugs. The backing vocal “Why Sally, Why?” pays homage to that other Sally, the one made famous by Wilson Pickett, and keeps the tongue firmly in cheek.

There is plenty more delightful light and shade in this package – and a fair helping of fun - but the wonderful ‘She’s Gone “My Little Love Song”’ offers an understated bittersweet finale of unconditional love and farewell, underpinned perfectly, almost jazzily, by Hynes’ upright bass.


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