By Tad Dickens | 777-6474
A long debate has simmered. Which came first, gospel music or the blues? The Campbell Brothers had an answer at Jefferson Center on Friday night.
“Some of the same ones who played the juke joints on Saturday night played church services on Sunday morning,” guitarist Phil Campbell told a crowd inside the venue’s rehearsal hall.
Campbell and his brothers, Chuck and Darick, and their traditional “sacred steel” guitar band brought both styles together, with the balance rising toward their Lord. In two sets, the dynamic five-piece band and singer Tiffany Godette brought church on Friday.
The rehearsal hall, with a capacity of about 150, was nearly full, with many standing, waving hands or clapping. The shame of it was that the show was originally scheduled for the Jefferson’s Shaftman Hall, with its capacity of 900. Once again, the Roanoke listening audience showed itself to be shy about something different, even with reasonable ticket prices.
But the smaller room provided intimate atmosphere, and The Campbell Brothers’ charisma held the crowd easily.
The band started out relatively mellow, with the straight-ahead mid-tempo “Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around,” Darick Campbell carrying the melody on lap steel. Godette rose to sing over the shuffling “I Feel Good,” Chuck Campbell developing his pedal steel lead work from her vocal melody. Still, things were mellow.
Then the intensity grew. On a cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” Darick Campbell had his tone locked in, bringing lyrical beauty that has been the trademark of an 80-year old tradition in the House of God Church Keith Dominion. Brother Chuck mimicked locomotive whistles and delivered cascading 16th-note runs as the band chugged behind him on “I’m Going Home on the Morning Train.”
Brother Phil got some electric guitar solo work in, too. After telling the crowd about the similarities between gospel and blues music, he wailed over the 12/8 swing of set-closer “Don’t Let The Devil Ride,” with Godette bringing blistering vocal work of her own.
The second set built on the intensity. Phil Campbell stomped an effect that made his guitar sound like a piano, and he showed the chord work and solo chops of a church pianist on “I’ll Fly Away.” Chuck Campbell, who had broken a string early in the set, had a new one wound up and tuned just in time to push his slide through some haunting lead work.
Darick took the vocal on the band’s final tune, an extended version of “Lord I Just Wanna Thank You,” from the band’s upcoming album, “Beyond The Four Walls.” He gave way soon to Godette, whose full tone, glass rattling range and sweet falsetto were a marvel all night.
As Chuck Campbell — with brothers Levi (drums) and Derrick Bennett (bass) pounding hard — worked a pedal to summon overdriven low notes, Darick asked the crowd to stand and be thankful.
It was a show to be thankful for.