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Kate Campbell

Visions of Plenty – 1998 (Compass)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Kate Campbell

For her third album, Kate Campbell sticks pretty close to the equation that brought her college radio success with her sophomore release, last year's "Moonpie Dreams." Combining a penchant for wiseass goofball lyrics with a gift for heartbreaking melodies, Campbell delivers on a number of musical levels simultaneously.

But like John Prine, her closest male counterpart, Campbell has the rare ability to deliver drop dead funny trifles like "Bowl-A-Rama" and "Jesus and Tomatoes" and then unload devastating looks at segregation ("Crazy in Alabama," "Bus 109"), a gospel love song ("A Perfect World") or an updated blues hymn ("Sing Me Out"). One of the highlights is the skewed folk rocker "Funeral Food," Campbell's look at the ritual of neighborhood feasts after a death in the family, and a song so naturally bent that it would be comfortable on any Lyle Lovett album.

Johnny Pierce's production is clean and bright, and the appearance of Emmylou Harris on harmony vocals on a pair of tracks is an added treat. On the style question, it is unlikely that Campbell will be forced by the industry to pick a side in her seriocomic tug-of-war, simply because she plays both sides so brilliantly.