Wayne Nicholson and John Campbelljohn – Elmore’s Blues | Album Review

Wayne Nicholson and John Campbelljohn – Elmore’s Blues

Grindstone Records


CD: 14 Songs, 48 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Tribute Album, Contemporary Electric Blues Rock

Once upon a time, in the early days of the Internet, a fiction subgenre was born. Written by fans for fans of a particular book/movie/video game, it was dubbed “fan fiction” or “fanfic.” No one got paid for it, but they could finally insert themselves into their favorite fantastical universes. Tribute albums consist of “fan music,” played by fans for fans of particular artists. As with fanfic, its quality varies, but the end result is invariably enthusiastic. Case in point? Wayne Nicholson and John Campbelljohn’s latest album, Elmore’s Blues, an homage to Elmore James. Featuring twelve commendable covers and two original tunes (“If I Was Blue” and the closer, “Dancin’ with the Blues,”) it celebrates James’ most renowned work with the casual zest of a backyard barbecue. Some tracks are more flavorful than others (“I Believe,” “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” “Sinful Woman” and “Sunnyland”), but on the whole, these two have nailed it. Nicholson’s robust vocals and Campbelljohn’s storied guitar work, it’s a must for die-hards.

Wayne Nicholson has long been considered one of Atlantic Canada’s greatest blues-rock vocalists, often compared to legends such as Paul Rodgers, Jim Morrison and David Clayton-Thomas. Having grown up with the sounds of early jazz and blues, Nicholson evolved into his own musician with a unique understanding of the genre. With a career spanning fifty years, he recorded eight albums, touring with artists such as Ike and Tina Turner, Gregg Allman, James Cotton, Jeff Healey, and more. As for John Campbelljohn, he’s a multiple award winner that includes wins and nominations for Maple Blues Awards, East Cost Music Awards, Real Blues Awards, and other plaudits. He’s recorded and released fourteen albums and has been featured on numerous others throughout his career.

This is essentially a duo album, as depicted on the CD jacket cover and the middle inside flap. Nicholson stars on vocals and flute for “Strange Kind of Feeling.” John Campbelljohn takes center stage on guitar. Joining them are Bruce Dixon on bass, Neil Robertson on drums, Barry Cooke on piano, and Kim Dunn on organ.

How well do the two original tracks fit into the overall repertoire of Elmore James songs? In a word, perfectly. “If I Was Blue” boasts a killer slide guitar intro with melodic beauty throughout the entire number. Nicholson’s vocals are full of vim and vigor, well-suited to the heartache of the narrator. “Dancin’ with the Blues” will make listeners get off their seat and on their feet, ending this CD with a memorable bang. Barry Cooke’s piano and Bruce Dixon’s bass sound terrific here, and Neil Robertson’s drums provide a swinging mid-tempo beat.

Elmore James would be mighty proud of his two aficionados and their feisty “fan blues” tribute!

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