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Troy Campbell | American Breakdown (Evangeline)
The son of an Appalachian truck driver and a Korean war bride, Ohian Troy Campbell is one of a long line of singer-songwriters ploughing the alt.country furrow. A former member of the Austin, Texas band Loose Diamonds, Campbell has enlisted producer Gulf Morlix, renowned for his work with Lucinda Williams, for this mellow slice of Americana. It's an easy-listening album, in the purest sense of the word, and a long way from the days when Campbell formed a band with Alejandro Escovedo and his brother Javier after being inspired from the punk movement of the late seventies. There are no traces of that on this album, which provides the listener with a series of medium-paced rockers that serve to showcase Campbell's slightly faltering voice on songs that benefit from Morlix's production expertise. While there can be no second-guessing Morlix's talent, repeated listenings to this album really do try the patience. No amount of technical and musical tricks can enliven Campbell's stereotypical songs that too often come across as kind of rock-song-by-numbers stuff. Indeed, at one point I found the likeness to early Huey Lewis positively unnerving. However, notwithstanding that quibble, 'American Breakdown' is not that bad. It has a number of high points, notably Campbell's sincerity and sweet voice; but where it falls down is that, in its desire to be likeable, it tries to be all things to all men. At no point could you say: "Ah, that must be Troy Campbell." In other words, Troy is just like hundreds of others doing similar things all over the world. That the guy has talent is without doubt; sadly, even someone with the pedigree of Gulf Morlix cannot raise 'American Breakdown' from the mediocre to the memorable.
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003