Owen Campbell – Breathing Bullets
10 Tracks; 34 minutes
Owen Campbell Guitar came to the attention of the world at large as “The Angry Busker” on Australia’s Got Talent. He showed up with a lot of talent, a lot of miles on him and an attitude that used to define rock, blues and vagabond singers. The attitude offended what passes for entertainment industry professionals these days, and they almost kept him from going on. Luckily the producers noticed his talent and made sure he was on the show. He didn’t win which is probably the best thing that never happened to him.
But the notoriety took him to America, and specifically to a recording studio in Nashville to cut this album. That attitude, the spirit of the road-worn vagabond, is all over this album and all over each of these original songs. Oh, it’s been cleaned up a little by the absolute killer backing band and producer Devon Allman. But Allman knows from his father, Greg, what raw country rock blues should sound like and he lays it down on every track.
The opening title track, “Breathing Bullets”, kicks things off with Campbell’s signature raw vocals and percussive acoustic guitar, buoyed by great backing vocals by Wendy Moten and superb organ by Rick Steff.
The high octane continues with the highly engaging “On My Knees” and “Howling” which show off his expressive howling voice. I wish he had actually howled a little more, but he channels it through an intense guitar solo instead.
“Intensity” is a good word for this whole album. Campbell feels his music all the way to his gonads and puts it all in the recordings. I can’t imagine he left so much as a quarter rest on the studio floor.
He also shows in “Rattlin’ Round” that slow songs can be just as intense as the rockers. This is a song of reflection and melancholy very nicely sung and played. The next track, “Eagle Man” brings seemingly disparate elements together: a haunting cello and percussion that evokes First Nations, which is fitting because this song tells the story of a Native American who longed to be as free as an eagle. His voice tells the story and the cello gives the Eagle Man wings.
“Soldier Of Fortune” is another blues/rock tune with Wendy Moten’s powerful vocals a perfect counterpoint to Campbell’s more earthy sound. This is followed up with yet another strong song by Campbell, “Rise.” This is a slow, uplifting ballad about overcoming adversity through perseverance. It is a declaration of grit, and Campbell leaves true grit on every track of this CD.
The eclectic nature of this album can be summed up in the final track, a rollicking Cajun-infused toe-tapper. You can hear hints of The Band in this track, not surprising since Campbell counts The Band as one of his major influences. This has some wonderful, distinctive Cajun piano by Rick Steff that carries the tune right up to the end.
This is a very good album with strong, diverse songwriting that shows a lot of promise for songs not yet written, but eagerly awaited. Owen Campbell brings us a sound born and bred in American southern country blues all the way from the Land of Oz.