Starlight Campbell - Blueberry Pie

The renowned blues authority John Guregian at WUML (Blues Deluxe on Saturday afternoons on WUML at 3:oo pm EST 91.5 FM) very kindly gave me a copy of Blueberry Pie by Starlight Campbell, who are based on the Isle of Man, suggesting I might enjoy it. I'd never heard of the band - but knew of the keyboard player, Jonny Henderson, having seen him play Hammond keyboards onstage with Matt Schofield. That's a pretty illustrious introduction for a new band in my estimation. The first reaction I had on listening to "Blueberry Pie" was that I had heard everything before - but in different configurations and settings. Everywhere I looked were glimpses of the past; "Green Onions" by Booker T & the MGS, Peter Green's guitar tones, Three Dog Night, Hendrix's "Foxy Lady," Gary Moore's phrasing, Earl King's "Come On," Billy Gibbons' dirty rhythm tones, "You Can Keep Your Hat On," King Curtis' parts arrangements, and more. At first I thought this was bad, displaying laziness in construction and composition, but after listening several times I found myself enjoying the album despite myself.

The recording is in "state-of-the-art" analog - of essentially live takes in the studio with no digital editing. The guitars are all recorded impeccably with a leaning towards overdriven vintage equipment, and played with precision and excellent phrasing by Simon Campbell (previously of bands Little Brother and The Disciples). The bass is handled tastefully by Suzy Starlight (hence the band's name). The only weak track ironically the title track, a somewhat dreary acoustic slide-guitar based song that runs short thankfully. But the rest of the album is really really good, I mean powerfully good. The band is tight, the arrangements are solid, the performances expressive, the sonics are perfect and the solos are blues-oriented without being archivist, sounding sometimes like an extremely aggressive early Peter Green. The vocals are managed respectfully, choruses such as on the song "Empire" are more creative than most blues bands actually incorporating harmonies. The lyrics reach for originality - though tending towards the first person singular which eventually grates on the ear.

Ultimately the album is great because the musical compositions are strong, the band is locked into a perfect ensemble and the guitar playing is inspired. If you don't believe me - check out the guitar solos on "Don't Get Me Wrong" and "Cry Over You." If we handed out "stars" this album would get a bucketload.

A live version of the opening track of the band's debut album released February 1, 2017.

Album credits:
Steve Gibson: Drums
Jonny Henderson: Hammond Organ & Wurlitzer Electric Piano
Suzy Starlight: Bass, Percussion & Vocals
Simon Campbell: Guitar, Percussion & Vocals
Danny Boy Sánchez: Harmonica
Production and Engineering: Simon Campbell
Assistant Producer / Engineer/ Cover Photograph: Suzy Starlite
Music and Lyrics: Suzy Starlite & Simon Campbell
Recording: Supertone Records, Estivella, Valencia, Spain

Starlight Campbell Band on Supertone Records

— Conrad Warre


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