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Published: 2008/06/23
by Brian Ferdman

RALLYTIME! Live in New Orleans – The Campbell Brothers

Tulip Records

Some music is just intended to be heard live, and the Campbell Brothers' blend of Sacred Steel, gospel, and R&B is certainly no exception. Their latest effort, RALLYTIME! Live in New Orleans, captures the dueling steel wizards along with saxophonist Tim Green, sousaphonist Kirk Joseph, background vocalist Shannon McNally, and many other guests in a spirited performance in New Orleans’ Old Point Bar during the city’s 2006 Jazz Fest.

From the opening strains of "The Judgment," it is clear that this is not a sit down affair. With pedal and lap steel guitars jousting to fine effect, the rollicking number rumbles at a lively pace. The second offering is a grin-inducing "Put a Little Love in Your Heart." Joseph is jaw-droppingly impressive in creating a bubbling and funky bassline that bounces all over the place, fueling this chestnut while Chuck and Darick Campbell smoothly ride through their contrasting leads. The lengthy ballad, "The Storm is Passing Over," oozes with a tremendous amount of post-Katrina pathos and sympathy, a feeling that is later echoed on the emotional instrumental finale of Sam Cooke’s "A Change Is Gonna Come." In between are some excellent, driving numbers, such as the pulsating, horn-enhanced, funkdafied "Rallytime" and the climactic "Spontaneous Praise Jam." The latter is nothing more than three minutes and twenty-four seconds of the throbbing, orgasmic joy that we've come to expect from purveyors of the Sacred Steel tradition.

Since the tracklist has been whittled down from much longer sets, the album doesn't quite have the same flow as one would expect from a live show, and occasionally, the order feels a little disjointed, especially when Phillip Campbell says, "We’ll be back in just a little bit" at the conclusion of "Understand it Better" even though there are less than ten minutes of music remaining on the entire album. Additionally, for a live album of an act that seems to be reliant upon crowd response, it would be nice if we could hear more of the audience. Regardless, these are but minor quibbles, as RALLYTIME! Live in New Orleans preserves an infectiously joyous event with musicians who are overflowing with the spirit.

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