March 2006
Ken Whiteley & The Campbell Brothers
Sunday Gospel Series
March 5, 2006Hugh's RoomToronto
Sunday Afternoon Jumping Up
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
Ken Whiteley’s musical co-revellers for this afternoon were Ben Whiteley on bass, Bucky Berger on drums, vocalist David Wall and the Campbell Brothers from Rochester, N.Y., or rather, some of their members — pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell and his brother Darick Campbell on lap steel guitar and cousin Denise Brown on vocals. It was one rousing afternoon of rock your soul gospel that had the audience clapping, waving their hands in the air and singing. The room was considerably warmer at the end of the almost two and a half hour show (with no intermission) than it had been at the beginning.

The afternoon started off with a “going down to the river song” written by Ken Whiteley, inspired by his experience in Haiti as a congregation of about a thousand people participated in a baptism ceremony. This was our initial preparation for a dip in the gospel fount.

One of the highlights was a song by the Campbell Brothers — the ultimate train song — starting on pedal steel with “that lonesome whistle”, picking up steam, coming on around the bend and pulling out the throttle, heading home on the “Morning Train”. Denise Campbell also opened the throttle, her voice strong and smooth, passionate and controlled, right on track, all the way. She, like David Wall, who joined in with some improvisation, is an amazing vocalist and I’m sure we will be hearing more about both of them as the years go by.

This was followed by the classic “People Get Ready”, about the train that’s a-comin’. “It wasn’t in the set list”, Ken Whiteley said, “it just felt like the right time to play it”.

The bluesy “Walk With Me Lord” was another stand-out piece, again with exceptional singing and wailing steel guitars. At times the pedal steel sounded uncannily like a human voice. The piece ended with screaming guitars worthy of any good rock band.

Ken Whiteley

Encouraged by Ken Whiteley to sing a song from his new CD, David Wall chose “John The Revelator”, (it’s in D, he informed the band). What an extraordinary vocalist! David has an astounding range that reaches into the stratosphere and falls into growls. He sings with emotional abandon and does everything he can to get the sound he wants, hitting his chest, grasping his forehead, throwing his head back, whatever it takes. This music is perfect for his talent, allowing him great freedom for intense spontaneous expression.

A riveting moment in another piece was a call and response sequence between David Wall and Chuck Campbell. They obviously enjoyed playing with each other. Everyone on stage did.

Darick Campbell

Chuck Campbell

Towards the end of the afternoon, Toronto-based vocalist Rebecca Campbell dropped in on her way from avant-garde pianist Matthew Shipp’s concert and was motioned onto the stage by Ken Whiteley. After greetings and hugs all around, she joined in on the last few pieces, adding another welcome and interesting voice.

Nearing the end of the show, the Campbell Brothers told the audience, looks like you got the idea now, this next song we’re going to do is a praise song. It’s about thanking the Lord for the good things and it’s called “Jump for Joy”. Now, let’s see everybody on their feet and start jumping on three. Pretty much everyone was and pretty much everyone did.

To close the show, Darick Campbell led the singing of “What’s His Name?” with the crowd answering — “Jesus”. Up from behind his lap steel guitar for the first time, he asked us to “do our thing” as he danced on the stage.

Great harmonies were created in more than one sense of the word. I’m sure everyone there was glad they had decided to attend. A religious experience? Yes indeed.

Ken Whiteley’s next Gospel Lunch at Hugh’s Room is on April 2nd (2006). It will feature Amoy and Ciceal Levy with Pat and Rhonelle Patrick. You might want to book early. This Gospel Lunch was sold out. Ken has a reputation — and lots of musical friends with reputations too.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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