Jim Campilongo’s records have always shown his country and jazz influences while offering his own twist. On this latest live record he and his trio, with a couple of guest shots from like-minded guitarist Nels Cline, fill eight songs with heaping amounts of uniqueness, musicianship, and just plain-old fun.
The opener shows off plenty of what makes Campilongo special. “I’m Helen Keller And You’re A Waffle Iron” is dirge-like funk that sounds at times like nothing should fit together, but it does. Jim’s soloing is full of harmonics and biting single notes before he moves right into some power chords that fit with the rhythm section’s funky beat.
“Big Bill” is hoedown music from the land of dissonance. Double stops could be a cliché, but not in the way he uses them. He bends them, along with bending whole chords, beating them into submission until they fit the composition perfectly. And, once again the rhythm section is hitting on all cylinders. The match of Campilongo with Chris Morrissey on bass and Josh Dion on drums is the ideal fit.
Dion sings the only song with a vocal, “Here I Am,” and the musical part of it showcases the trio’s ability to play off each other. The band pushes and Campilongo answers with twang, bent strings, and interesting note choice, including a beautiful chromatic run that highlights his solo.
Cline’s two numbers allow for lots of space. “Cock And Bull Story” highlights all the players’ brilliant use of dynamics, gliding between what sounds like English parlor music and riff-laden rock and roll. The song, which clocks in at around 11 minutes, turns into a one-chord vamp that allows both players to solo nicely and eventually to play off each other. “There You Are” features lovely interplay between the two guitarists, with pleading volume swells and nice soloing.
Campilongo’s uniqueness helps elevate “Jimi Jam” above what you might expect from the title. He solos interestingly and effortlessly, yet intensely while the rhythm section lays down a big groove.
The “bonus track” is “Jim’s Blues.” It gives him a chance to really cut loose with a cascade of double stops and giant string bends before settling into a western feel that brings to mind someone riding on a horse. Not surprisingly, his solo at that point is lovely and atmospheric.
There’s no doubt Campilongo is a guitar-playing treasure. The live format of this record is the perfect way for his capabilities and uniqueness to be displayed.
This article originally appeared in VG April 2018 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.