Stacy Dean Campbell – Hurt City
Stacy Dean Campbell’s 1992 debut Lonesome Wins Again was a refreshing attempt to storm the country charts. With a pure voice steeped in the old honky-tonk sound and original songs crafted with a delightful rockabilly feel — not to mention videogenic looks and a style that effortlessly outdoes Chris Issak’s blue cool — Campbell seemed to have all the pieces needed for success. But they didn’t add up, and the album made several critics’ yearend lists yet not a dent on the Billboard charts.
His followup still reeks of retro talent, but he’s heeded the words of the marketing department. Their advice? Call in the hired guns. On Hurt City, Campbell collaborates with topnotch songwriters Jamie O’Hara (O’Kanes) and Al Anderson (NRBQ) and picks his covers from highly respected others such as Mickey Newbury, Kostas and Kevin Welch. Unfortunately, the results are mixed: With a few exceptions, it’s an album that’s pretty instead of smooth, slick instead of sticky-sweet.
“Why You Been Gone So Long” has a fiery kick to keep it moving. That tune and the single “Honey I Do” have more honky-tonk energy than anything else on country radio this year. The sprightly sound effects on Jim Ed Brown’s “Pop A Top” mesh beautifully with the rollicking rhythm. Slowing things down, the title track is a evocative declaration of loss and hurt.
But tracks such as “Mind Over Matter” are too formulaic: take a cliche, bend it up a bit, and then fill in the verses. In this case, the result is the obvious and awkward “I don’t mind / And she don’t matter.” Steve Earle’s “Sometimes She Forgets” doesn’t hold the polish Campbell applies, especially when compared to the version on Earle’s comeback album earlier this year. With all the hired help, Hurt City is frequently hard to distinguish from other Nashville fare. That’s a shame, because Campbell has the talent and style to make it his own way.