Eddie C. Campbell’s blues ride in that kind of groove that feels like a smooth old Cadillac easing its comfortable way down the open road. In the country. On a warm, summer day. With a big, fat smile stamped on the grill. In short, this is the kind of Chicago blues that’s meant to keep the foot tappin’ and the head waggin’.
On Hopes & Dreams, Campbell displays the kind of mastery of blues simplicity that purists love. But even a master of the basics such as Campbell can’t resist a few nods to more modern influences, such as on the funky cut, “Geese in the Ninny Bow (Hey!)” On this particular number, Campbell borrows the opening groove from Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” but then throws some hilarious lyrics on top of it and shifts the rhythm around just enough to make the song his own.
But on most of the 11 all-original tunes featured here, Campbell showcases what has come to be known as Chicago’s “West Side” sound, particularly on his guitar where his tasteful, melodic style is fed through an amp with its reverb cranked as far as it’s willing to go. A veteran with more than 50 years of blues dues tucked firmly under his belt, Campbell’s list of credits definitely places him in the top tier of the blues elite. He has toured with Jimmy Reed while serving as his band director, has served as lead guitarist for both Koko Taylor and Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All-Stars, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Mighty Joe Young and Little Walter. Campbell’s band has backed up the likes of Tyrone Davis, Howlin’ Wolf, Percy Mayfield and Lowell Fulson, just to name a few.
Campbell’s first album, King of the Jungle, was released more than 20 years ago in 1977 and he hasn’t released anything else until now. Sure, it’s a shame that someone with this much blues juice hasn’t recorded more, but it is what it is. Rather than crying about what never was and never will be, it’s more important to celebrate the here and now of Campbell’s most recent release by checking it out — and his live performance in Ann Arbor — for yourself.
Eddie C. Campbell performs June 14 at the Firefly in Ann Arbor.
Keith A. Owens is a Detroit-based freelance writer and musician. E-mail him at [email protected].