John Campbelljohn, Artist of the Week
Runs July 20-24th.
Born 1955 in Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canadian singer/slide guitarist/songwriter John Campbelljohn is a multiple award winner.
Learning his first guitar chords at age 14 from his steel-working Dad, Chas, it was hearing the first strains of Duane Allman’s “Statesboro Blues” at a high school dance that set him on a course from which there was no return. Learning slide guitar became Campbelljohn’s sole obsession. Step dancing could wait.
John took up the guitar and studied blues masters like Fred McDowell, Robert Johnson & BB King, while at the same time was swept up by the “British Invasion” of The Beatles and Rolling Stones. Soon the distinctive sound of the slide guitar captivated him and he turned his attention to artists such as Duane Allman & Ry Cooder followed by the “behind the slide” technique of Sonny Landreth. Eventually he put together a combo, toured relentlessly throughout Canada winning numerous awards and landing international record deals in Europe.
During his career John has been featured on recordings and live shows that include names like Sting, Joni Mitchell, Emmy Lou Harris, Leonard Cohen, Joe Ely, Willie Nelson, Robben Ford & Alvin Lee (Ten Years After) as well as TV productions by Sony Music Entertainment and Showtime Network. Rich vocals and distinctive prowess on the slide guitar has made him a favourite at music festivals in eastern Canada & Europe.
In his solo, acoustic blues performances he makes the most of the song. Campbelljohn soulfully commands the stage with rich vocals, while his powerfully prolific technique on guitar or trusty dobro lap steel further embellishes each composition. His power trio ups the ante with an electric sound that can pummel an audience into submission or captivate them with the subtleties of ace musicians driven solely by the love of their craft.
A tight rhythm section fronted by Campbelljohn’s distinctive prowess on slide guitar quickly demonstrates that, although John’s a Cape Bretoner, he’s been cut from a plaid of a very different color. Power blues that touch on rock, reggae and roots with a few overtones of pure country – these are John Campbelljohn’s stock and trade. He’s also added the wondrous sounds of the pedal steel to his live band shows to haunting effect. The overall quality of the musicianship, the energy of his delivery and the guaranteed good times that spring from the band’s performances are proof of the pudding.
A simple listen to any of his six CD releases tell the tale that John Campbelljohn – solo or otherwise – is a born performer and a credit to his accomplishments: Blues Artist of the Year, Guitarist of the Year, Slide Guitarist of the Year. His is a sophisticated, well-informed and progressive definition of the blues and his distinctive edge has been applauded from Sydney to Stuttgart.
Musically, Campbelljohn covers a lot of ground – Depending on the muse, he can veer off into territory that embraces reggae, roots-rock and (with the help of his pedal steel) pure country. Yet the core of his sound is a sophisticated, well-informed and progressive definition of the blues. The distinctiveness of his sound has been applauded and appreciated from Sydney to Stuttgart. In fact, his reputation abroad has blossomed into a German label contract on the Taxim label.
John released his debut in ’93 and, as his originality begged immediate attention, with accolades pouring in across the next six releases: Blues Artist of the Year, Guitarist of the Year, Slide Guitarist of the Year. Regular nominations and a mantle-full of awards – as well as constant recognition and critical praise for both his recordings and his live performances – keep him in the limelight and feed his soul but, in true Maritime tradition, he prefers to further refine his craft in a self-driven quest for perfectionism that comes with the territory. Not content to be revered for the originality of his songwriting, his celebrated slide skills, his cut-to-measure vocals and his fan-friendly stage prowess, Campbelljohn can now add pedal steel guitar to his already sizable arsenal. At the same time, he is amping up his home recording capabilities to lay down his more adventurous ideas at his convenience as well as offer help to up-and-coming talent in search of hands-on direction.
John Campbelljohn is an exceptional blues musician with great instincts, tastefully concise solos and a no-nonsense approach to giving his fans the good times they not only deserve – but have come to expect. John Campbelljohn is one nose-to-the-grindstone artist who is rarely satisfied with doing his absolute best and it is this very drive and ambition which keeps him in the foreground.
John Campbelljohn: front man; sideman; consummate showman; proud Cape Bretoner; Canadian bluesman. He’s redefined success at home and away.
And – thankfully – there’s still no sign of his step-dancing.