Review of Mike Campbell's new CD 'Mars Outback'
by Seamus Kennedy
Date: 03 Aug 05
When I got Mike's new CD 'Mars Outback,' I thought "Oh, no, he's gone round the bend. He's writing about a chain of steakhouses on the Red Planet." I was wrong, and I should have known better. In his own words, it's "a light hearted look at what we might find whenever we look in faraway places." Things like a bright green kangaroo, a yellow platypus, blue koala bears with six inch long tusks. This is a catchy fun song, ostensibly written for adults, but I believe it's a fine kids' song as well.
I love the superb bluegrass sound of Burn That Bridge with Ken Terry's sparkling banjo, Tom Bryan's lead guitar and Stu Schulman's Dobro and bass. This cut would play well on any bluegrass or country station as would my own favorite - Hate to See You Go.
On this lovely song which brings a tear to my cynical old eye, Mike says goodbye in song to his daughter Tracy. Beautiful melody, heartfelt lyrics without being cloyingly maudlin and brilliant lead acoustic work from Stu Schulman again. For my money, the best cut on the CD.
All Of My Troubles Go By is an old fashioned singalong chorus style love song. Lovely harmony vocals from Jeanene Walker, Matt Hammer and Loren Arment backing Mike's expressive basso. Another great track.
Iditarod is a different take on the great dogsled race from Hobo Jim's famous version. This one is just plain funny, mixing gene splicing, cloning and other mad scientist stuff to make a dog (?) team to race in the Iditarod. I love the ending on this one.
First Kill is a moving song about a young man named Ian MacGregor, a harpooner on a whaling ship, and his struggle with his conscience after his first kill - a humpback cow with a calf at her side. Karl Pasch's plaintive penny whistle helps make this a song to remember.
Shenandoah Roll On Home is a traditional sea shanty about the CSS Shenandoah harassing Northern whaling ships near the end of the Civil War. Great refrain too. Except....it's not traditional. It was written by Mike, but it sounds like a one hundred and fifty year old sea song. If you sing Barrett's Privateers, you should add this one to your repertoire, and amaze your knowledgeable friends.
In fact I've already added Back In The Clydesdale to my repertoire. A humorous look at Mike's (and my) preference for dark beers and stouts over some lesser American beers. The title should give you a hint as to the lyric!
I love this CD. There is not a bad track on it. It's in my traveling pile of CDs for my long road trips. The musicianship from Mike's accompanying friends is of the highest standard, and if you really like great singing, great songs and harmony vocals, do yourself a favor and buy this CD. Come to think of it, do a friend a favor and buy a copy for him or her as well.