If you had to convince a doubter that something mysterious and splendid is happening in Nashville these days, and you could only use a single album as exhibit A, this fresh amalgam of soulful retro roots and clean '90s style would work just fine. Ten songs go by in 32 minutes flat but, with not a false moment from beginning to end, it's an exhilarating ride.
Campbell, who is only 24 years old, grew up in Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico and was about to become a county sheriff when he decided to try a music career instead. Add 90210 good looks and Chris Isaak hair to that Southwestern country upbringing, and you have got half of what you need to make a star. The crucial other half includes taste, a distinctive voice and a gift for song-writing—and this young man has them all in spades.
The spare but swinging arrangements use electric, acoustic and pedal-steel guitars with great effectiveness on songs that range from loved-and-lost laments ("That Blue Again") to long-distance driving songs ("Rosalee") to intense ballads ("Poor Man's Rose"). Campbell's clear voice wraps around pithy country phrases and imbues them with a strength and sweetness reminiscent of the Everly Brothers, but he can also let loose on the up-tempo numbers with full-throated syncopation that has traces of Buddy Holly rockability. On "A Thousand Times," a wonderful song about wistfully turning down a chance to be unfaithful, Campbell even manages to sound both seriously tempted and morally certain. When this crooner walks the line, you listen. (Columbia)