Jim Campilongo’s ninth album, Orange, is a record that dazzles, as expected, with the guitarist’s raw fearlessness and inventiveness. His neat meshing of rock, blues, jazz, and whatever-the-hell-works is invigorating and his ability to pattern his playing with bits and pieces of devastating light and idiosyncratic darkness is astonishing.
Orange, out now on Blue Hen Records, is a collection of borderless music. Nomadic and adventurous, Campilongo’s playing belongs everywhere and nowhere all at once. Trying to peg him in a genre is a little like trying to catch a wild rabbit with your bare hands – if you do actually pull it off, you kinda feel bad about it and just let the little fucker go.
When Campilongo first started releasing records, he was playing with his band the Ten Gallon Cats. Solo records inevitably followed, with 2007’s Heaven is Creepy touching on a host of styles from rock to folk to jazz.
With Orange, new ground is forged yet again and Campilongo’s forward momentum is unstoppable.
The record was produced by New York City legend Anton Fier and was recorded in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Campilongo is joined by acoustic bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Tony Mason. The stunning Leah Siegel provides vocals and guitar on two tracks.
Orange opens with what can probably best be described as a tight, coarse little bit of roadhouse music. One can imagine Campilongo stringing this groovy piece together on stage behind one of those chain link fences. With beer bottles crashing and drunks fighting it out, “Backburner” lets the guitarist scale the heights of rock with freedom and grit.
Other tracks take subtler approaches, like the bluesy homage to Roy Buchanan called, of course, “Blues for Roy.”
Siegel’s vocals breathe their way into “No Expectations” perfectly. She joins Campilongo’s guitar to deliver one hell of a haunting, gorgeous, sensual rendition of the Rolling Stones tune. Leah’s also along for the ride on the Stooges’ “No Fun.”
A record like Orange just doesn’t come around everyday. It is a graceful, sharp set of soft touches and hard swings. It both dominates and caresses the senses, adding striking taps of mood in all the right places thanks to Campilongo’s remarkable control and patience as a guitarist.