This modest yet auspicious debut is sure to appeal to anyone who believes that country music has become the new pop and is none too happy about it. An unapologetic heir to the buttoned-down neo-traditionalism of Alan Jackson and George Strait, Craig Campbell sings in a rich, unhurried baritone and favors gimmick-free arrangements that feature swinging twin fiddles and careening steel guitar. None of which is surprising, given that his album’s producer, Keith Stegall, was the force behind Jackson’s biggest hits and wrote the chart-topping single “I Hate Everything” for Strait.
A native of Georgia, Campbell is proudly rural and committed to the ties that bind. “Family Man,” the record’s first single, extols the virtues of fidelity and commitment with the warmth and sincerity of Don Williams. “My Little Cowboy,” a Southern rock ballad beefed up by dual electric guitars, reflects specifically, and with insight, on the relationships between fathers and sons.
Campbell’s paeans to country living don’t exactly break new ground, rife as they are with stock references to the likes of “dirt roads,” “dippin’ Skoal” and “hearts carved in a pecan tree.” Nevertheless, his songs often hinge on memorable twists or turns of phrase, such as in “Fish,” a languorous swamp ballad. Opening with a bit of would-be double-entendre about the first time that he and his sweetheart “did it,” Campbell quickly reels listeners in, revealing, with a wink, that the “it” in question indeed had to do with baiting a hook.
“Fish,” “My Little Cowboy”
by Bill Friskics-Warren