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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Brooke Campbell
Label: Gate Records
Time: 10 tracks/37:49 minutes
It's taken me four months to review this debut offering from Charleston, South Carolina singer-songwriter Brooke Campbell, which I received just after I reviewed label-mate Silers Bald's self-titled recording. It should be easier to do so, since Brooke Campbell is quite enticing from start to finish, but this project demands serious attention. It is not background music! Perhaps the fact that this project is so listener-intense is a drawback. I've found it necessary to refer to the liner notes to fully absorb these lyrics:
You never cease to amaze your servant with displays of boundless glory;That's just the chorus to "Rushing Wind," a song of love to the Holy Spirit. This song sets the pace for a project which is truly exceptional for a new artist.
Brooke Campbell has a sweet, pleasing voice, and she is a very talented acoustic guitarist, with a gift for singing songs that are full of worship with a very polished yet intimate set of arrangements for her debut recording. That's why it's interesting to see a shift to jazz fusion for "Set You Free" and "Rushing Wind," gear-shifting to acoustic guitar-oriented "Children" and "Under My Skin." It's a marked contrast from the first exciting two tracks; but Brooke should have moved "Waterline," an a capella tune, anywhere in the sequence of this project, perhaps after "Rushing Wind," to ensure the casual listener doesn't fall asleep. The pacing and placing of tracks could be much better.
"Clearly" is perhaps the brightest spot and best representative here. The non-encumbered accompaniment -- Brooke's guitar and piano from Laura Story (of Silers Bald) -- solidifies straightforward lyrics that deal with the writer's not wanting to shape God in her own image but the other way around.
Oh, that I'd see you for who You are and not what I'd make You,These lyrics flow smoothly towards a chorus of "to marvel in awe of my God." Expect the same lyrical intensity with each song from this project.
Here's the bottom line: the casual listener may think Brooke Campbell is just another girl-with-acoustic guitar project. I stress that it demands a careful listening and not a cursory surf-through for thorough enjoyment. There's too much good stuff happening here, and I expect Brooke to vary the flow of her tunes in future projects, even within songs themselves. As a good example. "What Do I Mean" starts with a slow, funky beat and develops into straight-ahead, guitar-bass-drums rock and roll. This is the loud song on this collection. My only other problem is that it clocks in at less than 40 minutes. I find myself hitting the repeat function on my CD player, too often since beginning this review. I can deal with that problem and hope there's much more to come from Brooke in the future.
Brooke Campbell is one of the most superb and polished offerings I have heard from a Southeastern United States artist lately. There's still plenty of room for tightening future projects. I heartily recommend this recording, as the listener will -- with a careful listen -- bask in the glory of the Holy Spirit.
Olin Jenkins August 4, 2001