This is in part an album review and in part a thank-you note. Since this is a column on which my name appears, I bear the right to opine.
Coy Campbell has the heart of a poet. He has the vocabulary of an academic. He gives the most sincere, deeply personal hugs you will ever receive. He’s a wonderful musician. He’s a Savannahian. He has flaws.
Through his band’s moniker, Nightingale News, Campbell delivered his debut work, “Bell Rope,” last month. I’ve listened to it countless times. Campbell recorded the album a couple of years ago and handed me a digital copy a while ago.
Before Nightingale News formed, Campbell wrote all of the music on this album and spent months driving from Savannah to Athens to record it as a solo artist.
“Bell Rope” has been sitting on ice, waiting for an official release. He teamed up with local label Bomb Shelter Records to produce a high-quality CD version. The digital version is available on bandcamp.com.
For more than a year I’ve had it, or parts of it, playing constantly. It’s good. It’s so good, I sat down and learned a couple of songs.
Playing music is one my hobbies. It has been for most of my life. I minored in music in college only to learn how to play better.
I learned the final track,“Fire’s Arms,” because I fell in love with it. I don’t fall in love with everything. I fall in lust with a lot of music, but as we all know, lust is fleeting.
“Bell Rope” is etched in me. I cannot give a traditionally objective review of this album. I will always praise it more than condemn it, because it spoke to me. I latched onto the words, the music and Campbell’s voice.
So take the rest of this review with a grain of salt, and an understanding that in some part, this is more of thank-you note to my friend. He, like so many other musicians and artists in this city, has become the best part of my life here.
Imbued in the folk-infused chord progressions on “Bell Rope,” the subtle fiddle work, symphonic strings and overtly simple percussion is the heart of a wanderer, venturing the turbulent nature intrinsic of longing. Layered handsomely above these gorgeous compositions is Campbell’s story.
The ghosts of his past wander, trepidatious, throughout. His regrets, loves, losses and joys all make appearances. His voice ventures from mellifluous falsetto to bended vibrato, carrying a decadently romantic view of a changing southern United States, harkening the oldest vignettes of southern musical culture while pushing toward a progressive future.
Campbell has poured every ounce of his being, his life experiences and his well-tuned perspective into “Bell Rope.”
This is what we should all ask of artists: unfettered honesty. It is through the intersection of reality and desire the human disposition becomes clear.
There is a disconnect between the recorded versions of songs on this album and the live versions. Cleary, recreating all of the sounds and layers of this album live would be an expensive feat. What you will hear live is a far more rocking, stripped-down version of these songs.
I am personally excited to see Nightingale News write new material around the unit, instead of translating Campbell’s solo work. There is a lot of beauty in the dynamic group of backing musicians pulled from the deep well of talent in Savannah that work on this project. It has grand potential.
Thank you, Coy, for writing this music. It has meant something to me. I believe it will mean something to many others as well.
Joshua Peacock is a freelance writer for Do Savannah. He studied playwriting and music at the University of Iowa. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hear more from Nightingale News at nightingalenews.bandcamp.com.