Brian Campbell has composed some sixty songs. Most of his lyrics are evoked by musical riffs; some of his songs could be called poetry put to music, while others have definite commercial appeal. One culmination of this creative activity is The Courtier’s Manuscript, a professionally produced, multi-artist CD; feel free to explore it here.
Campbell continues to perform music, mostly in the Montreal area. Two recent videos:
Released in 2002 to an enthusiastic reception in Montreal, the Courtier’s Manuscript is a showcase for Brian Campbell’s poetic and socially-conscious lyrics, distinctly off-beat and impassioned vocals, and intricate finger-style guitar. Featuring 14 songs and one poem, five guest artists and an impressive array of subtle percussions and sound-design techniques, this album is an enticing blend of jazz-inflected folk-pop and worldbeat rhythms.
One song from the album, To My Whimsical Love, won a certificate of achievement from the 2001 International Unisong Competition. Reviews and comments compare Campbell’s songwriting to Paul Simon, Nick Drake and the Hum and the Quick.
“When I came up with the album title,” says Campbell, “I was thinking of The Book of the Courtier, the renaissance courtship manual for knights…and that whole tradition of the singer singing to a distant lover, high up on a balcony somewhere, or higher still, in his imagination.” In this album, that romantic theme is given a distinctly urban, contemporary twist.
The Courtier’s Manuscript continues to seduce and surprise with its celebration of love, longing and life.
BRIAN CAMPBELL The Courtier’s Manuscript CD (BeeDeeCee) Canadian singer/songwriter Brian Campbell is from a folk-based background, but is also unafraid to venture into other musical territories. His folk-influenced songs are truly excellent; I hear shades of various artists/bands popularly considered to be folk, such as The Incredible String Band and Nick Drake, as well as yer actual traditional folk music. He also explores a number of other styles, with equal sophistication and talent. If You’re Ever Around is like 80s alternative pop, but with a difference, due to its additional meandering psych-rock guitar soloing. Time Leadin’ Us On mixes together the music of various folk traditions, from the bluesy harmonica to the African-style percussion. To My Whimsical Love is sunshine pop with brass. Liliane is a classy pop song, a bit 60s, and with brass and woodwind. Sometimes Words blends folk, pop, bass clarinet, spacey guitar soloing and distinctive percussion. As A River Runs To The Sea features ethereal female backing vocals which have an almost choral quality. Plateau Weather Change begins with the sounds of a thunderstorm, and the song itself mixes American folk, world beat and quirky pop. Woman of Desire mixes rock, jazz, hiphop beats and even adds a tuba to all this. Chorus For Eurydice is a poem, with no musical accompaniment. Empty House is an atmospheric song, very well crafted, and impossible to describe in terms of genre.
If the name Hum & The Quick means anything to anyone, sometimes Campbell’s songwriting reminds me of them, though he has a different approach to arrangements. A more famous name he is sometimes reminiscent of is Paul Simon. Whilst most stuff here is sophisticated, The Essential Love Song comes across like a comedy song, with theatrical voices over minimal strummed guitar. Whilst it has novelty value, it’s definitely not representative of Campbell’s music. Elsewhere though, it is clear that Brian Campbell is a talented songwriter with an individualistic and creative approach.
Other comments on Campbell’s songwriting
“Campbell’s craftsmanship focuses on a return to traditional songwriting values. He has an innocent belief that good lyrics with simple melodies can move mountains. After listening … so will you.”
— Eric Alper, Slap Happy Records
“Campbell’s music brings us back to the days when songs had meaning.”
— Stan Asher, CINQ-FM Radio Centreville, Montreal
“Brian Campbell is a true song-poet.”
— Robert Priest (Poet/Songwriter)