Records That Made History

John Campbell – One Believer

todayFebruary 10, 2024 5

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Bluesman John Campbell’s Elektra Records debut is a curious affair with more than one respect despite its apparent perfection and original voice.

The first oddity of the case is the fact that Campbell signed. Clearly in 1990, when Campbell was agreeing and signing his contract with the label, record company executives were still interested in finding new and original talent to develop for a while and market. One Believer was out from almost every musical trend supported by the major record companies at the time. Aside from Chris Whitley’s Living With The Law, it was the only return-to-roots album released by a major label in 1991.

The second oddity is that One Believer was something of a paradox even for Campbell himself. It’s an atmospheric album full of subtle shimmering instrumentation and warm guitar textures that emphasize the dreamy and otherworldly side of the blues, more so than the crackling heavy playing that Campbell was known for in the clubs and on his next album, Howlin’ Mercy.

Songs like “Angel Of Sorrow”, “World Of Trouble” and “Wild Streak” offer bright atmospheric sounds from which emerge ethereal blues that challenge in tone and melody all accepted notions of what Texas should sound like blues. But Campbell lived and worked in New York, and his music was definitely influenced by the late-night environment of the city where he played.

The album includes very nice songs, with a restrained and shadowy texture, but which gnash their teeth at the right moment. On other tracks, street magic comes out of the closet, as in “Couldn’t Do Nothin’,” “Devil In My Closet,” and “Person To Person.” In “Voodoo Edge”, the slow blues cross with the New Orleans blues of Dr. John, with elegant piano playing extending Campbell’s sound on “I Walk On Gilded Splinters” into a deeper, darker shade of roots music. This is underlined by the album’s final two tracks “Take Me Down” and the title track “One Believer”, which sound menacing with the conviction of a chillingly dense playing.

The album is truly one of the finest and most tasteful debuts ever released.
John Campbell, on this album, presents an interesting version of “Talking Blues,” with a voice that is so compelling and holds the listener’s attention while he sings his story.
Through this impressive album I select the track “Wild Streak”.

Tracklist

  1. Devil In My Closet 5:59
  2. Angel Of Sorrow 4:14
  3. Wild Streak 4:58
  4. Couldn’t Do Nothin’ 3:47
  5. Tiny Coffin 4:42
  6. World Of Trouble 6:09
  7. Voodoo Edge 4:06
  8. Person To Person 3:49
  9. Take Me Down 6:45
  10. One Believer 5:34

Written by: Dimitris Sigalos

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