CBC East Coast Music with Bob Mersereau Music Review: John Campbelljohn - Celtic Blues Live In Hamburg
-thumb-280x280-125233With the news full of doom and gloom for the economy, I've picked up a recurring theme from the commentators. It's said Canada needs to lessen its reliance on our biggest trading partner by far, the U.S. With our economies so connected, we are hooked to a country that ain't exactly doing great these days. We need to strike up more trade with others that are doing well, such as China, Brazil, or Germany.

Hey, some Maritime artists have been working that angle for awhile. Acadians have long been using the Moncton-Montreal-Paris pipeline to get overseas, touring all over Europe. Such New Brunswick acts as Lisa LeBlanc and Joseph Edgar are overseas right now, wowing the crowds.

Cap Pele's Melanie Morgan is rockin' the TV screen each week, climbing further up the ladder on CBC-TV's Cover Me Canada contest, but when that is done, she and country singer Kevin Chase are headed to China, and Chase has already toured Germany of late. There are lots of other examples. Bands from all over the East Coast have been invited to tour everywhere from Ireland to Australia, many of these connections happening at industry events such as the ECMA's or Celtic Colours. Simply put, why beat your head trying to break into the U.S. market, when other countries are inviting you, helping you get sponsorship, and putting you on festival bills?

Nova Scotia's Campbelljohn is one guy who knows this lesson well. He's been touring Germany for several years, and in fact is so popular there, he has a record deal in the country, and has discs come out there unique to that land, or before they are issued in Canada. This time, he's showing us why he's loved in Deutschland. Recorded with a loving club audience, Campbelljohn is in solo mode for this disc, proving his mastery at slide, mandolin, and fun. Mixing originals with classics, he slips back and forth between John the Maritimer on the road to John the veteran German traveller. His closing number in fact is called Autobahn John, a funny take on his speedy ways up and down the highways of his second home. But it's not like he's denying his heritage; lead track No Philosopher tackles a common problem here in the East Coast scene, which has often been dominated by Celtic music, or the "fiddle music" as you'll hear some complain. Campbelljohn sings "would it hurt your Celtic colours if I paint them blue sometime?" He, no doubt, has felt this more than others, coming from Cape Breton, and often being looked over in favour of the Scots-Irish tradition.

Listening to this disc, I often forgot it was a live recording, as the quality of his playing was at times astounding. The audience politely waits until the end to whoop and applaud. I know some performers don't like the staid crowds they find overseas, but if you're making a live disc, it's a blessing. He's in Germany right now as a matter of fact, in the middle of a two-month string of dates. If he keeps playing like this, Cambelljohn may help lead the whole nation into an economic recovery, as Germany will be after all our musicians.
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