When I wrote about Tinsley Ellis earlier this month during this focus on the upcoming Blues Music Awards, I talked about the nebulous point where blues becomes 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."
I don't think Campbell was in any way putting Hendrix down. What I think he's saying is there are few guitarists who understand and feel the nuances and subtleties that separate the different constructs of the blues from the rock and roll offspring they produced. One's not inherently better than the other. Rock, blues, and blues-rock are all valid vehicles for musical expression, but they aren't the same thing and it's important to be able to appreciate them in their own context.
Campbell is part of a special, distinct tradition of blues style and sound but this isn't museum music. It's great to be able to listen to traditional 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. Academia and music aren't mutually exclusive but when you listen to Eddie C. Campbell talk about 'makin' popcorn,' understand he's not writing a book report. The music that came before him lives in the music he's making now and his music will live in those who learn from him. It's the circle of life, Symba, and it's part of an album nominated for Album of the Year.