Jeff Campbell’s like a thousand and one other starry-eyed dreamers desperately hoping to carve out a career making music. However, unlike many others, he was willing to stake his fortunes on making that dream come true. Once a successful investment advisor, he sacked that stable career to pursue his muse, roughing it out in clubs, bars and wherever he could find an audience in his determined effort to pursue those possibilities. The record companies have yet to come calling, but after three self-released efforts, it’s clear he won’t allow himself to be deterred.
While Campbell’s hoping for his lucky break, he started out clearly by happenstance. Once a drummer in a teenage band, he discovered he could sing when the group’s vocalist came down with laryngitis and Campbell was forced to take over the mike to salvage the gig. He was hesitant at first to think that music could be anything but a hobby, but it’s clear now that he’s ready to take his efforts to the next level. And with The Kitchen Sink, it’s also clear he’s made the right choice.
To be sure, Campbell’s not breaking any new ground. His songs retread familiar terrain, with themes that cross the transom from love to loss and the nagging desire to retrace the ways said relationship went south. “We’re ready when you are, so let’s move on,” he moans on one of the album’s typically plaintive pieces, “Overboard.” “I could sit here forever wondering what went wrong.” Clearly, Campbell has a way when it comes to tugging at the heartstrings, but he does so in such a manner that it doesn’t come across as maudlin or morose. Subtlety is a key ingredient here, and on steadfast songs such as “Fill the Spaces” and “Reposado” that erudite ability is all too evident. Campbell’s clearly not one to over modulate or even to overstate his case. Yet these compelling melodies and contemplative musings demonstrate he really doesn’t have to.
The tender “Finger Pictures” says it all:
“You never know.
You never will.
You can’t buy a better thrill”
Less is more, and yet in Campbell’s case, there’s never a moment where the listener feels underserved. A confident and compelling effort, The Kitchen Sink isn’t the cluttered melange its title suggests, but it does hint at a promise fulfilled.