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JOHNNY CAMPBELL - From Hull And Halifax And Hell 

JOHNNY CAMPBELL - From Hull And Halifax And Hell 
Subversive Folk Records SF002 

This hour-long live set, recorded in September last year in front of a small but enthusiastic audience in a bar in Nólsoy in the Faroe Islands, marks my second encounter with Huddersfield-based singer-songwriter-guitarist Johnny Campbell who, in the true pioneering spirit of the travelling singers of the early folk clubs, delights in plying his trade in remote locations. His personal take on “authentic” folk is a full-on singing and playing style with a refreshing immediacy and a Pogue-ish thrust (though to call it punk-folk might seem unfairly off-putting), and he clearly understands and is able to communicate the messages of his chosen songs with all due anger and bitterness – and intense commitment (although not entirely without tenderness).

This live set unashamedly includes all song introductions, and presents a compelling complete picture of Johnny the troubadour. The mix of material equally unashamedly embraces self-penned songs, traditional folksongs and covers (MacColl’s Moving On Song, a Shane MacGowan “transposition”, Arlo Guthrie’s portrait of Victor Jara, and – cue “potentially offensive language” warning – Climate Change Is Coming, by Cosmo the anarcho-folk-punk-hiphop protest singer). On his own compositions, Johnny sometimes follows the songmaker tradition in borrowing existing tunes to serve his own commentaries, and to good effect; others, like the Brexit-themed Hook, Line & Sinker, may include less subtle references.

I find it surprisingly easy to warm to Johnny’s personal take on the living tradition, not least due to his absolute conviction; and I defy anyone not to be galvanised by the total integrity of his exceptional rendition of Moving On Song.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 132 of The Living Tradition magazine