Review By Daryl Addison
Even as Craig Campbell’s debut single “Family Man” was climbing the radio charts early in winter 2011, you could still find him performing every Tuesday night at The Stage on Nashville’s Lower Broadway. The life of a country singer/songwriter can be tough – and the songs on Craig’s self-titled debut album express the thoughts of a hard-working blue-collar man.
Craig co-wrote 9 of the 11 songs on the album. There’s a strong sense that most of these are autobiographical. Backed by a band that includes some of Nashville’s finest studio musicians, Craig uses his smooth baritone to paint pictures of life’s inner workings – be it surviving financial troubles, facing the pressures of divorce or simply doing what you can to make the right choices when raising kids. He sings “Don’t give up now/ ‘Cause I know that somehow/ You’ll figure it out” to his son on the hard-country ¾ time “My Little Cowboy” in a way that mirrors what he heard from his own father earlier in the song.
Family is very important to Craig, and songs such as “That’s Music To Me” and “Family Man” illustrate that this is where he draws strength. “They’re the world my world revolves around” he sings on the contemporary country chorus of “Family Man,” detailing why he goes to the lengths he does to support his most loved ones. And though he does sometimes touch on the troubles many people face, he always does so with a smile and optimistic outlook. “Hello, who’s askin?/ A bill collector?/ Well he ain’t here/ Ah Hell, I guess you got me” he sings on “When I Get It” before telling the collector in all sincerity that he’ll get his due as soon as Craig gets his. Craig’s optimistic outlook turns into a full-on 3-minute expression of the feeling on hum-able songs like “Chillaxin’” as the lyrics help the listener drift away to a sunny summer day.
Craig Campbell’s musical style is reminiscent of the more traditional leanings of Alan Jackson and Josh Turner. The fiddle, mandolin and acoustic guitar on songs like “Makes You Wanna Sang” are most certainly country. On the back half of the album, Craig uses a storytelling song to describe what he feels is country on “You Probably Ain’t.” “Country is a way of life/ That’s almost gone/ It’s more than the clothes you wear/ Or how you sing a song/ It’s about being honest/ And working hard/ Looking someone in the eye/ Being who you say you are.” It’s this earnest approach, everyman likeability and easygoing optimism that will leave the listener wanting to hit repeat.
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