Two for the price of one.
At the end of 2016, Tulsa, Oklahoma singer, songwriter and guitarist Chris Blevins gave up his day job in a post office to become a full-time musician. His debut album followed in the summer of 2017. ‘Grief, Love and Other Gifts‘ falls somewhere between the categories of EP and LP but packs the same punch as the latter.
Horton Records states its mission is to support Oklahoma artists. If it was their idea to feature Chloe-Beth Campbell on this seven-strong collection, they might just have struck gold. Blevins’ vocal alone is secure and easy but pitched with Campbell’s takes on another dimension. Each song in this collection is a duet. The two share leads, mix harmonies as they bring authenticity to the tales of everyday life that Blevins writes about. Campbell’s vocal belies her twenty-one years with its air of Dolly Parton. It has incredible strength and beauty that will surely take her career beyond her own debut album from 2018.
‘Grief, Love and Other Gifts‘ opens with Campbell initially taking the lead on ‘Letting Go‘. It is a song about grief, yet with its fittingly mournful undertones, the lilting melody carries the quaint acceptance of loss. The switch to Blevins’ lead in the fourth & fifth verses followed by the stunningly harmonised last verse adds breathtaking gravitas. “Letting go, this fond farewell, all you’ve left here are the stories that we tell”
‘Half Hung Hammer‘ follows with the contemplation of mortality. Still, its upbeat sound and catchy chorus give it an entertaining, matter-of-fact approach. Again the pair switch, taking the lead and coming together for different verses and the chorus, with outstanding results.
“Ooh, what do you do when the roof caves in and the light shines through, Ooh what do you say when you can’t find another way“. The illustrious musicality of ‘I’m your Man‘ creates a provocative, rootsy mood as the characters declare their feelings for one another. Blevins shows versatility with ‘Spectator‘ and ‘Folded Arm Farewell‘ taking on a perhaps more mainstream sound, yet neither lose sight of their rootsy origins. The mellow guitar break and wistful chorus line in ‘Folded Arm Farewell‘ – “if I’m missing you I hope it’s hard to tell“, both bring artistry and charm to this honest tale of destruction.
‘What Will We Love‘ takes another turn. It is more of a honky-tonk, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, exploration of how a relationship might fair when all problems are solved, and there is nothing left to fight or worry over: “but what will we talk about with no more pain and no more doubt“. Very bluesy and again great use of the divinely complimentary vocals. The collection fittingly ends with the fabulous optimistic, committed and assuring tale ‘Love Has Found You‘.
Chris Blevins and Chloe-Beth Campbell are clearly two singer-songwriters to watch out for. This might be a Blevins-led project, but either together or individually, particularly with the support of such superb Oklahoma musicians, they are, without a doubt, on the ascendency.