Over these past few months, Nashville Neo-Americana songwriter Campbell Harrison has become quite acquainted with our editor-at-large Paul Howard (go read his three prior publications if you haven’t), but with the release of his newest EP Lyin Cheatin Gettin By, it’s about time that I get the privilege of giving our lovely readers the 4-1-1 on Harrison’s panoramic artistry.
Co-produced by Harrison himself along with his wingman Hayes Smith Jr., the album came to life with Chris Mara at the historic Welcome to 1979 studio. It features an array of all-star team talent, including Ted Pecchio (Doyle Bramhall II, Susan Tedeschi, The Codetalkers) on bass, Benjo Markus (Dee White) on electric guitars, Hayes Smith Jr. on drums, and Aubree Riley on background vocals.
With an energy seeped from the chaos that was 2020, Harrison has created a 6-song EP that addresses hypocrisy, self-worth, and internal struggles without the usual savior complex egotism. It’s a broad palette of eclectic tunes submerged in hard edges, dark themes, catchy melodies, and sarcastic licks – liberated from any archetypical genre.
We start off with “Holy Water,” a track that sets the fire, exerting a vigorous pulse with the use of crisp, thumping drums and vibrant, crunchy guitars that settle themselves throughout the rest of the record. Nothing but a good song sung from the heart is all Harrison needs as he keeps it laid-back and cool, all worries abandoned.
We quickly slow it down during “Call Me On A Monday,” one of two acoustic compositions that, with lines like “No one ever hurt me like the way I might,” is a razor scooter to the ankle. But once the chorus comes around, the mood shifts as Harrison welcomes the idea of receiving a call from the one he admires. A heavy lyric shielded by wit and charm, this one is bound to be a favorite.
Released as a single in late January, “Lyin Cheatin Gettin By,” set the tone for this EP’s general motif. A deep-seated groove drives it forward while Harrison harps on today’s fraudulent displays of self-expression, where authenticity and genuineness are anything but organic. It’s a wake-up call for the shameless denials of the world, without necessarily leaving a negative taste in your mouth.
“Soul to Keep,” a track we’ve gotten rather familiar with since September, tells the tale of how a man fails to attain redemption after leading a selfish life exploiting others. Featuring Pecchio on bass and a female counterpart harmony, the song is a slow motion cruise down a small town road, fresh and breezy.
As the second acoustic tune, “The Small Things” emphasizes the significance of relishing in the little things of the present compared to the big goals of the future, refusing to get carried away by what-could-be’s and far out dreams. Here we hear an up close and personal presentation of Harrison’s notable forte saturated in effective lyricism and vocal excellence.
The EP closes with “The River,” a foot-stomping jam of country rock zeal that opens with a one minute long intricately crafted guitar highlight. Inspired by the classic hymn “I’ll Fly Away,” the track uses the river as a symbol of rebirth as it washes away the grime of yesterday and cleanses us of life’s ever present obstacles and afflictions. It’s the perfect finale, illuminated by a grandiose a capella chorus and dynamic guitar work.
Altogether, Harrison’s album is a pendulum of juxtapositions, centered on a balance beam of individuality. Anything but a music industry prototype, his originality flows through-and-through, qualifying for a positively stimulating experience. I’d say it’s a job well done.