SCOTTY CAMPBELL AND THE WARDENAIRES CD release party at the Cadillac Lounge (1296 Queen West), Sunday (April 20), 4 pm. Free. 416-536-7177. Rating: NNNNN
The smokin’ and drinkin’ recording just released by Scotty Campbell will very likely be the best damn real country album you’ll never hear played on country radio this year.
Campbell and his road-tested band the Wardenaires knock out the genuine uncut stuff for the hardcore two-steppers and elbow-benders, and they wouldn’t play it any other way.
“I’m 45 years old and the youngest guy in the band,” says Campbell, taking a break between deliveries. “Yet we still get really excited whenever we get together to play this music. The six of us have no problem squishing in a van to do a string of one-nighters – just ridiculous stuff for guys our age to be doing. It’s not because we have some crazy illusion about getting to the top of the charts and being rich and famous. We just haven’t yet resigned ourselves to the 9-to-5 life.”
It’s tough to say what’s stranger, that Canada’s greatest unsigned country singer/songwriter holds down a full-time job as truck driver in Hamilton or that Campbell’s classic-sounding honky-tonk record was produced by Sarah McLachlan’s guitarist, Sean Ashby, who looks like he’s never been inside one.
“Sean’s a Hamilton guy who I met at Mohawk College because he was in the same class as the guitarist in my band at the time.
“He came to see us play one night and said he wanted to produce our next record. But I didn’t get it. I didn’t see it, so I didn’t want any part of it. Our drummer, Jack Diamond, is a friend of Sean’s, and he kept saying, ‘Trust me, he knows what he’s doing.’ Sure enough, he did. He took all the microphones off the drums, stripped everything down and it worked.”
But now that Campbell has completed Smokin’ And Drinkin’, the authentic-sounding document of what his well-drilled band does onstage every night, the question is whether there’s an audience ready and willing to buy into the experience.
Campbell’s banking on growing numbers of people like him who are just as revulsed by the soft-pop schlock that’s called new country as they are disappointed by the boring alt-country blather trundled out by reformed rock louts who suddenly develop a taste for twang. He’s probably right. We could stand a dose of hard-living reality in roots music.
MySpace and Facebook networking also helps.
“The weird thing I’ve noticed is that as I get older, fatter and drunker, the crowds that come to see us play seem to be getting younger and prettier, as you can probably tell from looking at our MySpace page. I hate to admit this, but I think we’re getting more bookings because of it.
“We recently returned to play a club in Winnipeg, and the booker said, ‘We had to get you back, because the last time you were here, the place was packed with women!’ And of course, where pretty girls go, the guys always follow which is good for business. It’s a bit puzzling for me because I certainly ain’t getting any cuter. It must have something to do with the music.”
Scotty Campbell recounts the unusual origins of his new Smokin' & Drinkin' and explains why the album almost wasn't:
Evidently, Campbell listens to much more than just the old school country of Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Hank Thompson: