THE CAMPBELL BROTHERS at Hugh’s Room (2261 Dundas West), Sunday (December 14), 9 pm. $27.50, advance $25. 416-531-6604.
Just as quickly as the gospel according to pedal steel players blew up following the release of Arhoolie's revelatory Sacred Steel collection of traditional African-American steel guitar music a decade ago, it seems the most exciting contemporary exponents of the form -- save Robert Randolph -- have vanished.
According to Chuck Campbell, the Cambell Brother's innovative pedal steel slinger, there's a reason why you rarely hear about sacred steel anymore.
"When our new national leader, Bishop R.W. Fletcher, took office in 2004," explains Cambell over a cell phone near his Rochester home, "she announced that she wanted to bring the church back to it's roots and traditions. At that point, anyone taking the music to people outside of the church was no longer seen as doing the will of God.
"It's left our group in turmoil. I began playing pedal steel in 1968 and for a long time, I wasn't allowed to perform outside my father's church. Things opened up in 1998 but it feels like that door has been closed again. The sad part is, it's not only clubs that are off limits, it's festivals, school auditoriums and even other churches."
The fact that the Campbell Brothers are appearing at Hugh's Room on Sunday evening suggests that they're not content to preach to the converted.
"The first time we were invited to play our music to an audience outside of our church congregation was a mind-blowing experience and it continues to be each time we get on stage. I'm happy that we can say the Campbell Brothers went beyond the walls of the church to bring the good news to others. In the coming years, you'll be hearing a lot more sacred steel."
Chuck Campbell insists that his legendary fleet-fingered technique isn't driven solely by a need for speed, but that's definitely part of it.
Campbell recalls his last cutting session with steel star Robert Randolph, then a promising upstart who'd been closely studying Campbell's moves and practicing for long hours at home.
Like many sacred steel artists, the Campbell Brothers have maintained a repertoire heavily weighted towards popular gospel hymns but for their new album, currently in development, they plan to get much more personal.
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