REVIEW: Blaine Campbell and the California Sound

By Ron Vaccaro

With notes that are both familiar and fresh, Blaine Campbell and the California Sound is an enticing invitation to sensory exploration. Stick around, stay awhile, it beckons compellingly in the brief, opening track “The California Sound (theme).”  As you take a tour through the dozen chapters that follow, your nose, eyes and especially heart will join your ears in Southern California, where it’s not all palm trees and surf. Canyons are never far from the coast, with varied terrain in between. With an emphasis on substance over stereotype, the listener is taken on a smooth ride through an immersive land.

You quickly learn it’s not all sunshine in track two, “Telling You Lies,” but the invitation theme continues strongly in “The Day That Should Have Been” when it compels you to “be still and relax … take a look at the stars … just come in … have the day that should’ve been.” Later tracks “Come Close to Me” and “Rise” continue the engaging hook of inviting you to experience this rich world.

There are beautiful contradictions set up throughout. “Summertime in the Sunshine” would look to be a happy-go-lucky joyride at first glance, but you quickly learn it’s “such a lonely place.” The vocals and instruments are easy companions on this ride, never challenging you beyond your own pace, but most definitely priming you for exploration.

It feels like you’ve earned the reward “when morning comes” in “At the End of the Day,” again, a fitting twist that the payoff at the end of the day comes in morning.

It says a lot that the instrumental reprise of “The California Sound” is the penultimate track and not the final track. It’s as if Campbell is priming you for one last reflective invitation, and when you get to the final track, “Between Us,” you realize he is. “Does this really have to be the end, between Us,” it sweetly, yet almost hauntingly asks. It’s a cool parallel twist to the way the Under the Tidal Wave album ended, with “Time to Say Goodbye.” Thankfully, in a musical sense, the answer this time is that it doesn’t have to be the end between us. You can re-run and listen again, and perhaps again. You’ll be glad you did accept that invitation, and you’ll most certainly become a repeat visitor.

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