Eddie C. Campbell waited a long time to begin his solo career. The 70-year old native of Mississippi started playing guitar when he was young and spent years banging around Chicago playing with the A-list talent like Howlin' Wolf, Magic Sam, Koko Taylor and a host of others. He didn't record his first solo album until 1977, not long after Taylor brought him to the attention of Willie Dixon.
When I wrote about Tinsley Ellis I talked about the nebulous point where blues become rock. It's something Eddie C. Campbell has thought about as well. On the back of his Tear This World Up CD, he says, "Not too many people can play it," referring to his style of blues. "A lot try, but then they get mad and change into Jimi Hendrix."
Tear This World Up is no Jimi Hendrix record. This is a blues record with firm roots in the traditional sounds of Chicago. It's great to be able to listen to classic records made by legendary names who helped define these idioms. That music deserves to be preserved and honored and remembered, but if new generations of artists don't study and learn and adopt the lessons of those traditions they eventually become extinct. They become academic exercises. Listen to Tear This World Up and you'll quickly understand this is not Campbell's history paper or a science experience. The music that flows through him, captured on this record by Dick Shurman, lives in him because it's what he grew up listening to and playing. It's what he learned from some of the great names he worked with before he began his career as a solo artist and it's records like this that will inspire new generations to learn that tradition and pass it forward.
That sense of past and present is never more evident than when he records a loving tribute to his longtime musical companion, Magic Sam. He begins “Easy Baby” by paying tribute to the late band leader and one of the pioneers of what is known as the West Side sound. Campbell puts his own stamp on the song but this is still a textbook example of West Side blues. David “Honeyboy” Edwards, one of the greatest Delta bluesmen, described listening to guitarists who inspired him and the beautiful chords they could play. Campbell's “Easy Baby” solo blends some beautiful chords with single-string leads that alternately ring and sting.