Fingers crossed he can keep on for long enough to really find his own voice...
Dennis O'Dell 2008-04-15
Two albums in and it's crunch time for Phil campbell. He's got a lot going for him, but the Glaswegian troubadour (yes, another one of THOSE) is in danger of getting lost in the rush for acoustic gold. While his press biography describes him as an 'enigma' (ie: he went off the rails after losing his contract with EMI, giving him the subject matter for much of this album) he is in truth, a likeably mellow and ragged singer-songwriter with a way with a tune.
But let's look at the positive side. His voice is an undeniably lovely thing. He'll hate us for saying it, but it's like James Blunt with some grit. The musical soup which Campbell's providing here is the laid back, softly spoken, slightly winsome kind that's been common currency from all points from the 12-Bar club to Wembley since the likes of Damian Rice, Jose Gonzalez, Justin Nozuka, Jack Johnson and, yes, the Blunt one, all began bearing their souls in that '70s stylee. Phil has more of the American stuff flowing through his work. Tracks like a Little Hand or Cold Engines mosey along with that Al Kooper organ undertow and on Should've Stayed Home Campbell pulls out a fine wailing blues harp. But there's not enough variety here.
As if sensing that enough is enough, he attempts to vary the pallette on the album's last few tracks, and goes badly awry. Joy is lighter-waving blandness of the highest order, while Hey Mama may be a rocker, but it's not quite pulled off with the panache it needs. Luckily the closing title track finally emotes enough to convince you that he really has lived a little.
Talking about Tom Waits and your drug hell in your press release (and smoking a fag on your record sleeve) doesn't make you an instant bohemian inhabitant of the fast lane or the gutter. There's a wisdom beyond his years here, but it's couched in too pretty a production job and too sweet a format to really bite. Fingers crossed he can keep on for long enough to really find his own voice...