Outstanding review of Blueberry Pie by Ian McHugh of Blues is the Truth
Ian also features us regularly on his lovely Blues Is the Truth Radio show!
Starlite Campbell Band - Blueberry Pie
So how do you take old school British blues and make it sound modern and relevant again? Difficult question? The answer was revealed recently when the Starlite-Campbell Band released their debut album, Blueberry Pie.
From the off, it’s clear that this album owes a lot of its genesis to the late 60s period where British bands like the Stones were taking the music of an earlier generation an ocean away and making it their own. Simon and Suzy have obviously been listening and paying attention, because they’ve taken the swagger of the best bands, combined it with guitar leads that owe a lot to Mayall period Mick Taylor, added a dash of the kind of riffs you’d find on a Free record, and wrapped it up with the kind of brave and current songwriting that marked Mayall’s best work.
Let’s start with the songwriting. At his best Mayall wrote songs about what was happening to him, and to the world, in the now. That’s just what Simon and Suzy have done, from the near the knuckle bawdiness of You’re So Good for Me, via the delicate reminiscence of the title track, through to socio-political commentary on Empire, that have constructed a set of songs that about subjects that mean something to them, and are relatable to the average joe. There’s no need for them to resort to cliche so they don’t, there are no easy option hard luck love stories by rote here.
The performances suit the songs perfectly. Simon’s guitar playing and vocals are as always exemplary. The man can play, but does so without going down the road where flash is a substitute for real emotion, he can sing too, and it’s easy to see why that BBA nomination was for male vocals, even if it isn’t all about the big notes. Suzy, in all honesty, isn’t a match for Simon as a singer, but she delivers her lead vocal on Guilty with a disarming directness, which only adds to its impact. As a bassist, well she’s impeccable, delivering lines filled with groove and really being the centre of the swagger that the record has in spades. They’re augmented by some of the biggest names in the UK on organ, harmonica and drums, and it makes for a great, cohesive, record.
Production wise, this is very hi-fi, mainly because the methods they used are obviously straight from the old school. It all sounds very warm, analogue and dynamic. There’s plenty of space and grit in the mix and a sense of being in the room, you can hear everything that’s going on without it being clinical and digital as too many modern records are.
It’s a neat trick, taking the sounds of the late 60’s (with the nods to Bluesbreakers albums even extending to the Freddie King-esque instrumental Shimmy) and making it current. What’s even more impressive is making all this into a record about stuff that matters without being worthy or preachy. It’s a great record to put on to while away an hour, with its familiarity and sweet sound, but it will give it’s greatest reward if you pay attention, focus a little and see exactly how good a contemporary blues record can be.
Ian McHugh, January 13, 2017.