Are You Now or Have You Ever Been? Scott Campbell Checks Out

I got a hand-written five-page letter in October. I love getting letters and notes, and I love writing stuff down, but this was special. It was a note to accompany the new album from singer-songwriter and guitarist Scott Campbell, one of Tallahassee’s musical royalty. Campbell had provided me with copious liner notes about the players on An Old Photo and a good bit of his story.

Fortunately, he had time to appreciate our review of his album, and we had the opportunity to thank him again for the letter and a fine two-hour set at A Feast of Funk and Soul Food at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in November.

Photo courtesy of Betty Cummins

And now Campbell is gone. Lori Lewis Giuggio offered this loving post on Facebook Wednesday morning:

“It is with great sadness and a huge broken heart that I let you know Scott passed this morning around 2 am. He was comfortable, peaceful, and in my arms. What a treasure we have lost…

If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them.

-James O’Barr

I love you with all my heart, Scott…always will forever.”

We first connected with the Scott Campbell Band at Purple Hatter’s Ball 2015, where guitarist Campbell, along with bass, drums and the remarkable vocal stylings of Avis Berry, covered the Blind Faith album. It was an awesome set, as Tim Turner of Shak Nasti assured me it would be. We said then:

When I was researching the Scott Campbell Band, I saw that he is an extremely talented musician who played punk back in the day and could do about anything. On my way in on Thursday, somebody intimated that they might cover the Blind Faith album. I forgot all about that, right up until they blistered those first chords to “Had to Cry Today.”

So how on earth were they going to cover this album? No keyboard player; Campbell looks like he’s nearly in my age bracket (that’s the AARP club). And this woman was standing there at the microphone.

NAILED IT. NAILED IT. Six times nailed it. What a delight. Then I’m looking around, realizing that many people had NO idea what was going down. Bass and drums were rock-steady and perfect for this outing. Campbell was a pure delight, such great tone on these songs at least some of us knew note for note. But it was Miss Avis Berry who sent this project over the top. She was magnificent. She scatted, she sang, she owned this set lyrically. After the album was complete, the band did a couple of Traffic songs to close out a tremendous set.

Photo courtesy of Larry Coltharp

Campbell and band played again this year at Purple Hatter’s while he was preparing to release An Old Photo. And the band was in the midst of the album release shows when they played Live Oak in November. At the time, we wrote:

After lunch, Scott Campbell had assembled his band for an early set of music. MusicFestNews had just published a review of his new album, An Old Photo. Campbell’s band featured Randy Barnhill on bass, Leon Anderson on drums, and John Babich on keyboards. And Avis Berry on vocals. We had seen her at two previous Purple Hatter’s Balls, including the one where the band covered the Blind Faith album; she handled all the singing!

From the moment they began with the first track from the album, “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” you could sense this was going to be special. On the album, logically, it featured Campbell’s vocals as well as his excellent guitar playing. Berry acted in a largely back-up role. In concert, Campbell gives her free rein, because she is simply spectacular. In two days, we heard two of the very best singers you’ll hear anywhere in Hartswick and Berry.

The version of Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful” they offered was amazing, bluesy and so heartfelt. The instrumental “Still Water” gave each member of the band a chance to shine. They followed that with a nasty slow blues: “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” Campbell’s guitar perfect. It got even better as he lamented the recent passing of Mose Allison, after which Berry totally owned “Everybody Cryin’ Mercy.” Oh, man.

John Hiatt got a shout-out as they played “Feels Like Rain,” and then things got really better. Like “Got to Get Better in a Little While” better. This was the best cover of the Derek and the Dominos song I’ve ever heard, Berry riding atop the superb band.

Throughout the set, Babich’s New Orleans proclivities were delightfully obvious, and the rhythm section worked together as a unit. There was the spacey instrumental “Black Death,” next a Tex-Mexy romp, followed by a full-on Allman Brothers-type rave-up, with the Dr. That would be Roosevelt ‘The Dr.’ Collier, one of most revered performers at events at Live Oak and far beyond. Barnhill had a magnificent bass solo. And they closed with a glorious version of “Little Wing” and a Talking Heads cover.

You can read about Scott Campbell’s new album here. He’s the old friend you never met. Get to know him through his music.

I’ll just sit here a while and gaze at An Old Photo.


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