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Campbell keeps the tradition going

Altar Bar, Pittsburgh, February 2, 2013

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

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Craig Campbell is at the forefront of a refreshing trend in country music. His showcase of songwriting skill and traditional instrumentation represents a much needed return to the genre's roots. In other words, there was plenty of pedal steel and fiddle filling the 90-minute show.

The songs were about drinking, solid core values and, of course, "fishing."

Campbell came out to a thunderous bass drum with Keep Them Kisses Coming. Somewhat surprisingly, he only played only 4 songs from his self-titled debut in the 16-song set, equaling the number he performed from the new five-song EP "Outta My Head."

Campbell is always impeccably groomed and tastefully dressed "out of respect for his fans, his successful career and the country music genre itself."

The extremely capable band packed arena sized firepower into the open space of a converted church in the heart of Pittsburgh's historic Strip District. At times, the volume was ear splitting and overwhelming. It would have been nice to see a few more numbers stripped down to their acoustic roots like the touching dual charter, Family Man.

He saved one of the most the unsubtle songs written since Katy Perry's Peacock for the latter part of the set. Fish is always a rousing sing along to which every demographic seems to know the words.

In keeping with the country tradition, he peppered in a few old school covers, namely Hank Jr.'s Blues Man and Merle Haggard's Stay Here and Drink. The Georgia native had stints as a piano player with Tracy Byrd and Luke Bryan. "Luke fired me, but it worked out because I'm here now."

Indeed.