JazzFest Review: Campbell Brothers Steel the Show at Blues Tent

When 6 p.m. strikes at Jazzfest, the haze of beer, food, sun and wealth of options can force the most serious anxiety to set in. The Cubemasters schedule the biggest name bands for the last hour of each day. But while the large stages of Acura, Gentilly and Congo Square offer the acts named on the billboards, there's something that feels a little deviant about ditching all the big names and big crowds in search of a new discovery, or an old favorite that fits the mood just right. In the Blues Tent on Friday, Upstate New York's The Campbell Brothers took this feeling, and turned it into a revelation.


Employing the Pentecostal tradition of Sacred Steel, employing both the pedal steel guitar of Chuck Campbell, and the lap steel guitar of Darick Campbell. Originally available only in church, the music coming from the stage was a little bluesy for the sanctuary. However, guitarist Philip Campbell explained that the styles are linked, as many musicians "played in the jook joints on Saturday night, and the church on Sunday morning."


For most of their 45-minute set, the Campbell Brothers took the crowd straight from the night to the morning without even changing the song. A rendition of "Don't Let the Devil Ride" started out a wailing blues number, with the powerful vocals of Cinammon Jones giving way to a sharp solo duel between the two steel guitars that somehow managed not to cross the line into indulgence. Just when it seemed like another round of the refrain might have been enough, Carl Campbell picked up pace of the drums to a gallop, and Blues Tent went to church. The music maintained its shape, with the dual steel attack lending a depth to the sound that's usually filled in by the Hammond B-3 organ in a gospel setting. Jones sang through the song's words, then went to the corner of the stage, and broke into frenzied dancing. The crowd wasn't far behind.


The next song, Darick Campbell reminded everyone that pedals were not first and foremost used as effects buttons for electric guitarists. The lap steel produced the kind of wah-wah that Jimi Hendrix could only hope for on a searing version of Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," as the insturment provided a fitting stand-in for Cooke's silky voice. 


But in the end, the Campbell Brothers wanted to lift up their hands and dance, and the crowd was happy to join them. As the band launched into "Beyond the Four Walls," Jones had the crowd at her command, ordering them to lift up their hands, wave them and jump for joy at her choosing. Darick Campbell had everyone raise the roof, seemingly just for fun. While it may not have necessarily pulled the crowd closer to God, greater forces were certainly at work.






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