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Stacy Dean Campbell

Ashes of Old Love – 1999 (Paladin)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Stacy Dean Campbell

On his third album, Stacey Dean Campbell pares down the twang and sets hisemotionally evocative lyrics to a gentler, highly effective country-folk backing. The mostly acoustic arrangements push the lyrics to the front, creating the sort of intimacy and melodicism recently practiced by Vince Gill and Buddy Miller. Cambpell sings brilliantly of the contrasts between confinement and freedom, realizing superbly detailed narratives and portraits.

He explores the dichotomy between restraint and liberty, finding memories and dreams can be either a salve or an albatross. The prisoner of "I'm Gonna Fly" finds solace in bittersweet images of the outside, while the failed suitor of "Ashes of Old Love" is haunted by his inadequacy. Several characters are lured by the apparent freedom of the road, quickly finding themselves with no real destination. The wide-eyed innocence of "Makin' Good Time" quickly gives way to the dream chasing of "Five Texas Dollars" and the resignation of "Some People."

It's a hugely effective combination of songwriting and singing, adding up to a truly thought provoking album.