Whatever else might be said, there’s absolutely nothing counterfeit or fake about this latest release from Campbell and Williams. Following their previous lauded, eponymous offering, the pair have delivered an album that echoes with edgier slices of life. Joy and sorrow, love and heartache spill out as they turn in a twelve-track disc that grabs listeners by the scruff of the neck and propels us to a riskier seam of modern Americana.
As might be expected from this pair and engineer Justin Guip, the album is delightfully layered, with near-perfectly-pitched instrumental quality shimmering throughout. With three covers among the self-composed tracks, the songs feature lyrics that at times reflect the scruffier side of musical life in the USA, with suggestions of dark addictions and despair. Yet, whatever the subject matter, Campbell and Williams always succeed in keeping the listener easily on-side, a true tribute to their expressive thinking, musicianship and vocal skill. This is a pair who work together like hand and glove, always as one.
Some tracks simply sparkle with modern American brightness, while others feel brittle and demanding. Campbell even slips in a couple of tunes with decidedly bluesy undertones, one being the closing “Slidin’ Delta,” with its immediate hint of the deep South and the work of old roots- and-blues masters of yesteryear. Another holds echoes of 1930s ragtime-blues and is a warming glance backwards in musical time.
Contraband Love is at heart a genuinely excellent addition to this pairs’ growing body of work; an album with hard edges but always tempered by a warm, soulful heart. I, for one, love it.
by Iain Patience