Acoustic music continues its resurgence on these shores with Brendan Campbell’s excellent debut album, the follow-up to a series of acclaimed singles and EPs. For all those despairing of being sold yet another tousled haired poet of his generation, this is an album that stands the test of repeated listens and, even better still, is unlikely to be crossing over to Radio 2 anytime soon.
Brought up in a large family in Glasgow, Campbell has seen his fair share of the city’s good and bad sides during his 25 years. He manages to encapsulate a deep sense of place in his music, helped by the fact that he makes no attempt to disguise his broad Scottish accent. Not quite as bleak as Glasvegas, the year’s other great chroniclers of Glasgow, Campbell offers a more rounded and human homage to his city of birth.
Burgers And Murders works as a series of carefully crafted snapshots of city life, with childhood and the dreams and thwarted ambitions of young adulthood the recurring themes. The opening Venice sets the scene perfectly with its sweetly rendered homage to Glasgow offering hope for the future. The darker side of the city is unveiled in the following title track, with the bleak lyrics depicting a typical Friday night in Glasgow and the aftermath of a boy’s murder.
Campbell spent his early years playing in Celtic bands and his folk roots are all over this record, with the finger picking influence of Bert Jansch particularly apparent on the aforementioned title track, Pleiades and Indica. Subtle keyboard washes lend a touch of colour to several tracks, while Pirate Song is a rare foray into full band territory that finds Campbell equally at home essaying jaunty rock ‘n’ roll.
The album reaches a crescendo on Indica, on which Campbell’s virtuoso guitar playing is given full room to shine. This baroque folk marvel sounds like it could have run for twice its running time without losing steam, but it is to Campbell’s credit that he pulls the plug just shy of the five minute mark.
The following Dali’s Joystick is the album’s one lightweight track, with the up-tempo strumming barely disguising the lack of any real substance. Normal service is resumed with the finely poised Scarlet Blue and Albert’s Ashes, the latter ending the album on an upbeat note by promising that “timeless dreams they come”.
Those who have seen Campbell live will realise that he is an artist who is deeply committed to his songs. Adding lyrics, changing verses and tempos, attending a Campbell gig is similar to watching Bob Dylan, with songs in a constant state of evolution. Much of this will fly over the heads of the majority of the record buying public, but for those in the know Campbell is a national treasure who can only improve with age.