April 24, 2005
Why is the Gospel tent the best bet for continuous euphoric experiences at Jazzfest? Because Gospel is willing to go where rock, blues, and every other form isn't--into the sky. Gospel music has no bones about lifting listeners up gradually until they're clapping and dancing. While the structure of rock and blues only permits a tingly, lightheaded feeling for moments, Gospel music tries to keep that high going and going and going. Gospel music hits the peak and rides the crest, showing no intention of stopping.
The Campbell Brothers' "Sacred Steel" performance at Jazzfest Sunday afternoon was electric Gospel at its best. The Campbell Brothers took the crowd to the aforementioned peak, but they also used pieces of rock and blues to keep everyone on Earth a little bit longer.
The Campbell Brothers is a sextet that employs vocalist Kate Jackson, a bassist, guitarist Phil Campbell, eight string lap steel guitarist Darick Campbell, pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell, and drummer Carlton Campbell.
The music was naturally celebratory, but The Campbell Brothers weren't afraid to drag out the lap steel notes for some sharp pangs of spiritual yearning on the slower songs. They also used psychedelic sustain that recalled rock.
And, when they were rocking, man were they rockin'. The beat was driving knees together and breaking permanent grins. They were having fun. They were testifying in their own special way, and it was kinda hard not to have fun with them. Still, the Blues Tent was not the place for such an intense session. It was stuffy. Except for the occassional man flying by the front of the stage crazy-dancing, people didn't step out into the aisles. The crazy-dancers made the crowd look cold for not resonding outwardly to the Brothers' wonderful music. Even though it was a great opportunity to expose a secular audience to Gospel material, the Gospel Tent would have provided a more comfortable and laid-back atmosphere for The Campbell Brothers' celebration.
Chuck and Darick were the soul of the band. Chuck played lead while the Darick played rhythm and vice versa. They played off one another so well. They supported, interweaved between, and contrasted each other's playing. As you'd expect from a show entitled, "Sacred Steel," these guys were very good. There is something special and get-to-the-heart-of-things about the steel guitar, and when Chuck pulled those notes like a weight, the moment was all there was.