May I Suggest ...

Brian Daffron
6/25/08

'Lazy James,' by J.C. Campbell

If ever there was a soundtrack of songs to listen to while leaving the '49 in the proverbial One-Eyed Ford, ''Lazy James'' by Canadian Native J.C. Campbell would have to be on the list.

The combination of Campbell's lyrics and the slide guitar of Jay Ross merge the worlds of country and blues, blending a rugged feel of heartache and loneliness with a surprisingly uplifting message of following and reaching for your dreams.

The opening track suggests that there is nothing ''lazy'' about this album, beginning with the opening acoustic slide work of Ross. Campbell's voice is a combination of gravel and smooth, telling listeners to get away from the grindstone and ''reach for that dream every day.'' In a similar vein, the second track, ''Fortune,'' is about finding the silver lining in a storm cloud, with lyrics such as: ''With your troubles you find, misery / For your misery your good times will set you free.''

The third track, ''Far From You,'' inserts a different motif for a change of pace - that of the loneliness of being on the road, yearning to return to the loved one left behind. ''Our Lives'' then switches back to the theme of reaching for dreams to set life right, stating that the three things that can cause life to go wrong are ''bad people, bad choices, bad lies.''

The middle track, ''Wino,'' creates a story from an alcoholic street person's perspective, venturing at times into the territory explored by many in blues and country music - rock bottom. The experiences of ''Wino'' can be seen as a sequel to a song such as Kris Kristofferson's ''Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down,'' where the ''cleanest dirty shirt'' and the beer for breakfast are now a given. Campbell's ''Wino'' persona takes rock bottom a step further, finding ''a savior in the longneck form.''

From ''Wino,'' there is the progression to ''Lazy James,'' telling the story of a young man dissatisfied with high school, sliding by even easier than Ross playing the slide guitar on this track. But where ''Wino'' finds salvation in a longneck bottle, the persona of ''Lazy James'' instead finds inspiration and meaning through learning guitar and rhyme.

The pace of the album changes back to a song of love with ''No Lies,'' sounding as if the song begins on a needle-scratched vinyl record. The song then goes into a rich studio sound. But the strength of this song is not with Campbell or Ross this time. Instead, the jewel of this song is the singing of Campbell's real-life love Tracy Bone, whose singing is warm, deep-felt, and just right for this song. It complements Campbell's vocal style.

Following this duet by Campbell and Bone is ''Go Ahead,'' creating the persona of a lonely troubadour who can't wait to get home to see the love his profession forces him to leave behind. The following song, ''Keep On Tryin','' speaks of the resolution, grit and determination of the opening tracks, with the persona of the song saying that he'll keep on trying ''till they put me in the grave.''

The CD ends on a strong note with ''Slide,'' with Ross' slide guitar sounding as if he's coming from the bottom level of hell and sorrow that the title implies. In this song, Campbell sings of the loneliness of being on the road: but there's no longing for the loved one at home. This song, like the road that serves as its muse, ends like the finality of a long, hard night, saying that it's ''time to find a place to rest my weary head.''

Available through Strongfront Records, ''Lazy James'' is surely one to add to the CD or mp3 player collection.

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