Artist Spotlight: Owen Campbell

Owen Campbell 

Who is he: Owen Campbell is a 28-year-old Australian Slide guitarist/singer/songwriter who rose to fame during his run on Australia’s Got Talent. He released Sunshine Road, a self-produced album, in 2011 and is releasing The Pilgrim in June.

What he sounds like: Owen Campbell’s distinguishing feature is his unique guitar style. He always plays an acoustic guitar, and while he is a great traditional player, he’s really known for his unique lap steel style. Basically, he rests the guitar on his lap and plays using open tunings and a glass slide. Campbell’s guitar work is somewhat similar to Jerry Douglas-style dobro, but with more Bukka White blues influences. What’s interesting is that he doesn’t use an actual lap steel guitar that is specially designed for lap playing, but his slide work is still extremely effective on his regular old acoustic.  His licks are often syncopated and funky, his focus more on maintaining a groove than shredding lead licks like Derek Trucks, Duane Allman or Warren Haynes. The result is a funky stew of blues, country and rock that sounds contemporary and fresh without veering too far from any one genre.

Accompanying his signature guitar style are his gravelly but effective vocals. Mike Matthison (Derek Trucks), and Paul Rogers are good reference points for vocal comparison, but no one influence ever dominates. What’s refreshing is how genuine his vocals sound — you never get the impression that he’s trying to sound like an old bluesman. Although he’s only 28, every bit of gravel and grit seems truly earned, considering he busked his way across Europe during his younger years.

The first album’s backing band consists of drums, bass, some organ, and a few horn players, and complemented Campbell’s style well.  Peter Luscombe’s drumming is a perfect fit, as he maintained a deep pocket on cuts like Sunshine Road, which gave Campbell adequate space to do his thing.

What he’s done: Owen Campbell’s popularity soared in Australia during his run on Australia’s Got Talent. Unfortunately, Campbell’s quest for the Grand Finale was derailed when the show’s judges crowned a male stripper over Campbell. He must have had an off night, but apparently fans of the show were outraged by the judges’ decision. Campbell can’t feel too bad though, as the show helped boost his debut album to #1 overall on the iTunes Australia charts. The album was also #1 on the iTunes blues charts in Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, #3 in Italy and #8 in Portugal.

What’s Next: Campbell is releasing his second album, The Pilgrim, on June 7 and will be embarking on a 19-date tour of Australia soon thereafter. Look out for a full review of his new release sometime in May or early June.  Hopefully he’ll make it to this side of the Pacific soon, but until then, at least we can enjoy his debut.

One Response to “Artist Spotlight: Owen Campbell”

  1. [...] out from the guitar style that originally won him fans on Australia’s Got Talent. Campbell’s unique acoustic slide style is almost completely absent from The Pilgrim, and in its place are downright nasty electric tones [...]

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