Rooted in the history of American music, the rambling singer/songwriter has long been an important bard, telling stories of the American experience and carrying on a musical legacy. Images of songwriters hopping on boxcars and moving around the country with little more than a guitar during the difficult days of the Dust Bowl are ones that often come to mind when thinking of such traveling troubadours.
For Matthew Campbell, a Colorado-based singer/songwriter, following this tradition of folk singer/songwriters not only in his musical sound and lyrics, but also in spirit, has become an important point of inspiration.
“I’m not the first in line, and I’m not the last,” Campbell said of his musical expression. “We’re all part of what came before us, and part of what’s to come.”
Carrying on and building tradition, like the folk singer/songwriters before him, is an important aspect of music for Campbell.
After relocating to his native state of Colorado last year after a stint in New York, Campbell already has garnered a considerable amount of local attention in a variety of arenas. Opening a few weeks ago for Martin Sexton, Campbell’s been a feature at places such as the Aggie Theatre and Avogadro’s Number in Fort Collins and Cricket on the Hill in Denver.
For theater-goers, Campbell also is a recognizable feature of the local stage, performing in a variety of shows around town for the last year.
Taking the stage at the Bean Cycle, 144 N. College Ave., on Saturday at 11 a.m., Campbell hopes to become even more well-known, showcasing songs from his newest album due for release in the spring, as well as some old favorites and well-known covers.
With his first album, “East Third Street Waltz” available for just over a year now, Campbell is excited for his upcoming album, “Out Amongst the Shadows,” which takes his songwriting style in a new direction. Recorded at the home studio of John Magnie of the Subdudes, Campbell hopes this second full-length LP will serve as a nice companion to his previous album, as well demonstrate his growth as a musician.
“‘Waltz’ was all about New York,” he said of his first album. For his second collection of songs, he notes, “Conceptually, I was able to write better songs. There are a few specific themes that run throughout.”
Joined on the album by the rotating line-up of his “Bottom Line Band,” (featuring musical heavyweights such as Magnie and Steve Amadee of the Subdudes, Matt Wolf of the Denver’s former Planetary Nebula, and local musicians Derek Ray, Matt Mahern and Greta Cornett) an old time folk and country sound, the songs call to memory the music of the Great Depression, sparse and rich in lyrics at the same time. On the title track, “Out Amongst the Shadows,” a slow and haunting ballad, Campbell evokes images of the Depression itself, relating the dusty tragedies of the era to the sorrows of modern day.
For the more jangly, upbeat “1,600 Miles to Austin,” a high tempo and amusing tale of thwarted love, lyrics such as “It’s just 1,600 miles to Austin/ Trains are rolling/ Life ain’t costing me a dime/ And I’m feeling fine,” paint an image of a wandering songwriter, much like Woody Guthrie or Rambling Jack Elliot of bygone years.
For Campbell, the dream of being a wandering singer/songwriter might soon become a reality. Hoping to promote the new album and expand his fan base, Campbell plans to take to the road in the next few weeks, heading first to Austin, Texas. Planning to record a few new tracks and hopefully play some shows in the Southern area, Campbell said he feels traveling to new places is all part of musical growth.
“You can’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” he said of his hopes to travel.
Keeping a tradition of singing and songwriting alive is important for Campbell, and he hopes this vitality and dynamic link to the past comes through to his audience, as well. He also notes that he hopes each of his songs can function in this way, changing and growing while staying rooted in a larger tradition.
“A song is alive. It’s going to change and evolve along with you and the listeners, too,” he said of the performance experience.
Keeping up tradition of the rambling American bard is something Campbell plans to continue, and he hopes his music will help forge that living link.
“It’s alive,” he notes of both the musical experience as well as the past. “It’s a living art.”
For more information, see www.mattcampbellmusic.com
Or visit www.myspace.com/mattcampbellmusic for information and music samples