Monday, August 8, 2011

Scott Campbell - "Full Assembly Required - Album Review

In 2010, net label Prosity Records, released the Scott Campbell EP "Some Assembly Required" Now Scott is back to finish the project, with the addition of a further 7 songs, and the release of the full length CD, "Full Assembly Required" .

With the same whimsical songwriting attitude, and a gravel infused voice which only seems to get better for wear, this album of Americana, folk, folk-rock, blues and old-time popular music is better for it's completion to full length. There are not a great deal of albums which are written as such, some being more song collections. Full Assembly Requird, is quite the opposite, and meanders effortlessly from one track to the next, down it's own road, and in it's own time.

The opening number Amen is rich on vocal talent but does not set the mood for the rest of the tracks. It is the title number, Full Assembly Required that does that, with it's straight foward approach, and a tounge in both cheeks attitude.

Songs such as the the delightfully playfull 2 song medley Over the Moon For You/Everything Things Coming Out Blue even includes a lead whistling track which in some ways would seem dated, but here it is a near perfect fit. Moving on to more serious subjects such as Steelworking Sons of a Gun doesn't detract form the acute lyrical observations inherent in the work, and the album as a whole provides a vivid lyrical picture which remains throughout its varied playlist.

I caught up with Scott to further explore the albums origins and to see how it progressed.....

NS - Full Assembly Required carries on from the previous success of the EP Some Assembly Required. Was there an intent there to follow up with a full CD, or did it just happen ?

SC - As one who came of age in the 70's, I'm always thinking of projects in terms of albums. Not necessarily concept albums but at albums that at least follow a loose theme. The theme usually arises after I have about three or four songs finished. The reason I went with the EP first here is that Dan Tindall, a JPF member who created the Prosity Records net label, agreed to release an EP of my songs. He might have been willing to release an entire album but, at the time, all his other releases were EP's so I just went with that. But I knew at the time it would eventually become a full album.

NS - You do have some help along the way here, but most of the heavy lifting.... the song writing, the playing, the vocals and the production are done by yourself. Any tips for those who also have to wear many hats ?

SC - Most of the time I feel like I'm winging it but, if pressed to offer something philosophical, it would probably be, "have fun but work on improving the thing that is holding you back the most." Once you improve that, something else will become the weak link and you can turn your attention to that for awhile. And so on, and so on...... The great thing is that you will never run out of things to work on - so you'll never get bored.

NS - Your voice is certainly unique. Where do you find the right sort of gravel to gargle with ?

SC - It's been a fun thing for me to find that gravel. I started a project a few years ago on recording songs that were in the public domain - old folk songs like Erie Canal, Let the Bullgine Run, Ain't No More Cain - stuff like that. They seemed to call for a more raspy vocal than I had used previously. I posted these songs on the JPF music group expecting that people would say, "What the hell are you doing with your vocals". Instead, they egged me on - so I continued to experiment with different vocal approaches.

So I've been enjoying thinking of vocals like a musical instrument - where you bend them to suit the song. At the same time, the public domain project inspired me to write more songs in an Americana type vein - where the raspy vocal fit the topic.

I'll probably get into something else at some point, but for right now, I'm just going where the muse takes me. Interesting to me is the fact that I use far less processing on my vocals now that I did previously - just some compression, a little reverb, and a mild cut at about 250 Hz. About the only other thing I do is, if I want a REALLY raspy vocal, I sing it first thing in the morning before coffee.

NS - There's certainly a mixture of styles and genres, but acoustic singer songwriter would probably fit best. Do you go for a more acoustic style, or is it something you're comfortable with ?

SC - I just go with what my muse steers me to. Lately, they've all been in a similar vein (acoustic singer songwriter is probably a good description) but that could change on the day the muse pops something really outlandish into my head.

NS - Where did the idea of whistleing in a song origonate ?

SC - It probably was placed in my mind 40 years ago when I heard Otis Redding sing "Dock of the Bay". Why it finally came out here, in Over the Moon for You, I'm not sure. It just seemed to fit. If there is a silver lining to waiting until you are middle aged to write and record songs, it's that all these things you've heard are buried in your brain just waiting to pop out at the right moment.

NS - You've recorded 3 albums now. Any thoughts as to live shows ?

SC - Not really. I have a wonderful career outside music that allows just enough time in the cracks to enjoy making music. There really isn't time right now for me to develop the skills to be a good performer. And I DO recognize that they are serious skills.

I won't rule it out because I've found myself doing all kinds of things that I would have thought crazy a few years prior. If I do it though, given my age and type of music, it would definitely be a niche type thing, which suits me just fine.

NS - What's next on the agenda ?

SC - I'm not sure. It will probably take six or seven months to sort itself out. Right now I have about half a dozen songs in the rock genre and about half a dozen in a similar vein to Full Assembly Required. I also have about half a dozen cover songs that I really like. And I have a single phrase in mind that I somehow think an entire project will build itself around. I'll probably go with whichever one gets finished first.

NS - What is your favorite thing about making music?

SC - It's getting into the flow or the zone. That state of mind where you are so focused on creating something that hours pass without you even realizing it. Where you've got random things coming at you from all directions and you're making them all fit together into something coherent. Where the balls are all in the air and the plates are spinning away and there is not even any effort to it. To me, it's the greatest high on earth and my goal is to spend as much time in that state as possible. I have been able to get there doing other things too but it is particularly accessible through music - so I'll keep doing it until I can't get there anymore.

With such an approach, it's not difficult to understand how such a listenable album was created from the outset. Full Assembly Required is available now through CD Baby and all digital retailers.

Title : Full Assembly Required
Genre : Singer Songwriter

Artist : Scott W Campbell

Linda Adams, Ricki Bellos, Tammy Carlson, Gwendolyn Campbell, Wendy DuMond, and Joice Terceira sing backing vocals on Thanks Be to You.

Producer : Scott W Campbell
Engineer : Mike Caro

Rating : 4.5/5

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