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The Campbell Brothers mine a rich vein of music from the African-American, Holiness-Pentecostal gospel repertoire, but with a high-energy twist – the wailing, swinging, singing sound of the steel guitar. The gospel greats will serve up an evening of soul-stirring “Sacred Steel” music at the Chandler Center for the Arts on Friday, February 1 at 7:30 pm.
The sons of a bishop in the House of God Keith Dominion Church, Chuck and Darick Campbell grew up in a faith tradition where, more than sixty years ago, steel guitars replaced organs as the instruments of choice for “playing the word” each Sunday. The traditional “Sacred Steel” sound features electrifying gospel vocals, driven by pedal- and lap-style steel guitars that both mimic and drive the singer in a rousing, emotion-charged performance. Over the past 20 years, the Campbell Brothers have taken their reverential sound from the sanctuary to concert stages – including the Kennedy Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Hollywood Bowl – inspiring secular audiences with performances that are both deeply devoted and righteously rocking.
Chuck Campbell began playing the lap steel guitar at the age of 12. At the age of 17 he became one of the first players to use the pedal steel guitar during House of God services. Renowned for his innovative approach to the notoriously hard-to-master instrument, Chuck Campbell uses tools such as distortion, wah-wah effects, and unique picking techniques to emulate the human voice in an uncanny fashion. The result is an instrumental sound that evokes images of the field singing, hollers, and moans that are at the very roots of African-American gospel music.
Critics and national arts organizations have certainly taken note: Real Blues magazine writer Andy Griggs called Chuck Campbell “the Jimi Hendrix and Django Reinhardt of the steel guitar,” while Jon Pareles, the eminent music critic for The New York Times, noted that the Campbells’ guitars “swoop skyward like a gospel shouter, the brothers trading off leads, carrying the songs to peak after peak.” Chuck Campbell is the recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship award from the National Endowment for the Arts in recognition of his contributions to preserving African-American musical heritage. The Campbells and their band have also been honored with a Real Blues Award for Gospel Instrumental of the Year and a Best Gospel Album statuette at the Indie Music Awards.
In addition to Chuck (pedal steel guitar) and Darick (lap steel guitar), the nation’s most celebrated “Sacred Steel” ensemble features a third Campbell brother, Phil, on electric guitar and Phil’s son, Carlton, on drums. Powerhouse singer Katie Jackson delivers the group’s classic, gutsy gospel vocals.
Video: “Live at The Kennedy Center, 2018” –