Ne Obliviscaris (Never Forget)
Recently, I watched two touring musicians perform live at a small venue. On CD, the music of this singer and guitarist involved an array of instruments and musical effects. For this performance, much of the supporting music had been brought along in digital form on a computer. (Hey, who can afford to carry a big band on tour?) A musician friend of mine came over and whispered to me, “I don’t know about you, but I prefer live musicians.” If I have a complaint about Tig Wired’s release, this is it. The sound is big, but the instrumentation is all recorded and digitized by one person, Colin Campbell, with a little bit of help on drums and blues-harp.
You’ve got to hand it to Campbell. He’s managed to carry this legerdemain off without sounding all digitized and soft, as happens with so many of today’s one-man bands. Most of the time, but not always, without reading the liner notes you would never know this wasn’t a flesh and bones band. I only hope that, if Campbell and his lyricist partner – his brother Chris – take this show on the road, they’ll have the good sense to take along a real band and not just a pack of mp3 files.
That small quibble aside, this is a varied and interesting release that maintains a certain artistic unity despite its overall eclectic nature. If these brothers are not twins, perhaps they should have been. Their artistic vision is that tight, as though the creative centre of this music comes from not two minds but one. Chris Campbell’s lyrics are a perfect match for brother Colin’s musical magic, the two balancing and counterpointing one another at every turn.
While these songs hint at the blues, Forties’ country music, rock, reggae, jazz, and even folk music and show music, they’re really in a relatively new genre that often falls between the tracks and goes unacknowledged. What really connects these songs is their affinity for this genre that’s only existed since perhaps the late-Sixties. What strikes me most about these songs is how much they remind me of the jazz rock pioneered by artists such as Van Morrison and Lou Reed some forty years ago.
Chris Campbell’s lyrics, often socially conscious but never strident, are excellent, comparing favourably to the works of Morrison and Reed as well as many of our finest writers of protest songs. These are not just pretty poems but moving stories set to his brother’s music for additional impact.
Much of the time, Colin Campbell sounds a whole lot like Lou Reed in his seminal Velvet Underground years. As often, he sounds very like Van Morrison from the same period and a few years after when Morrison slipped into jazz-mode. On “When I Get To Feel This Way,” he starts to sound like Tex Williams of “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette” fame. “It’s This Job I Do” is pure country, so much so that most contemporary country music stations might not play it. A bit more schmaltzy, and it might have been a Bobby Goldsboro song. On the more reggae-sounding songs, his voice shifts again, sounding ever so much like a young Bob Marley. The variety present in this release only adds to the literary and musical talent of the Campbell brothers.
The musicianship on this release is impressive. There are trumpets (Keyboard? They sound real.) that at times echo the early Freddie Hubbard and at other times blast hard like early ska trumpets. Other instruments bring the same high quality to this production. As far as I can tell, except for drums on some of the songs and blues-harp on one, Colin Campbell is the musician responsible for all of these very cool sounds.
Even though I’m in favour of a full suite of musicians playing on a recording, keeping working-musicians working, I can’t help but be impressed with what the Campbell brothers have accomplished with this release. I do highly recommend that you give it a listen.
You’ll find more information on Canadian musicians Colin and Chris Campbell, aka Tig Wired, at tigwired.com.
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