Live Review: Campbell/Jensen, The Town Hall, Kirton in Lindsey – 9th February 2024

Campbell / Jensen, live, The Town Hall, Kirton in Lindsey. 9th February 2024.
photo: Mark Dinnage

It’s less than two years since the duo that is Campbell/Jensen first toured the UK supporting the legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb. During that time their set list was almost entirely made up of cover versions and songs from their individual solo projects. Fast forward twenty months and a lot has changed. For starters there has been the release of their debut album last November entitled ‘Turtle Cottage’, named after the building in which it was recorded on Mahee Island in Northern Island. On top of that the duo decided to up sticks from Nashville and moved to this side of the Atlantic to reside in the capital, clearly motivated by our weather and roads, the latter bringing them for the first time to Lincolnshire’s premier Americana venue at the Town Hall in Kirton in Lindsey. Oh, and there is one other change. The duo appear to have become a trio. But more of that later.

Campbell/Jensen are, for those not familiar, Ashley Campbell, daughter of the legendary Glen Campbell on vocals, banjo and occasional guitar, and Thor Jensen, guitar virtuoso and backing vocals, who together deliver an eclectic mix of musical styles, and exquisite vocals all wrapped up in a wonderful selection of songs.

The opening number of the evening’s first set could well be seen as a gauge to how confident the duo are with their new material with ‘A Song By Vampires, For Vampires’, considered by many to be one of the strongest tracks from their debut album getting proceeding underway. With Campbell on banjo and Jensen on guitar the track has drawn positive comparisons to that of Anais Mitchell and in particular her recent work with Bonny Light Horseman with its combination of subtle musical interplay underpinning a love song, its creative narrative is matched by its deft humour. Jensen took the vocal lead on the second number, ‘Perfectly Alright’, before being joined by Campbell on the second verse, their voices effortlessly complimenting the other, their harmonies as warm and gentle as a summer breeze.

One of the key areas that lifts this duo above most of the competition is their musical prowess which is seen to full effect during the first set on the instrumental ‘Edge Of The World’. Here Campbell’s banjo dances and weaves around Jensen’s rhythmic and lyrical guitar arrangement that leaves the evening’s packed hall both captivated and enthralled. The virtuosic level on show also allows them to draw from a broader musical palette as emphasised by the next song ‘La Bete’, with its gypsy jazz groove giving a appreciative nod to Django Reinhardt, especially during another of Jensen’s fiery guitar solo’s, while the vocals, partly sung in French help to transport the audience to the bustling bars and cafe’s of the Champs-Elysees. Two more tracks from the album follow, ‘Goodbye Cowboy’ with it’s Latin rhythm and ‘P&P’, the song that opens the album, in fact the first song the duo wrote together with its narrative embracing both the joys and fears that comes with ‘new beginnings’. A cover of Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Something Stupid’, helps again to move the musical compass, before the duo bring the opening set to a close with two more self penned number, the rollicking ‘Tank & Babe’, and the harmoniously gorgeous ‘Run With You’.

Campbell / Jensen, live, The Town Hall, Kirton in Lindsey. 9th February 2024.
photo: Mark Dinnage

After the short interval Campbell/Jensen returned to the stage to commence the second set at which point the third member of their entourage made himself known. Since moving to the UK the duo have become the proud owners of ‘Frodo’, a Miniature Schnauzer, who for the whole of the first set had sat in his basket at the back of the stage without so much as a yawn. Well maybe one. However, having enjoyed a stroll outside during the break before returning to his designated position on stage he clearly felt the opening number of the second half of the show was his time for a turn in the spotlight and duly stepped forward as the duo broke into song, much to the hilarity of the congregation. In truth the ensuing banter that was generated by Frodo’s cameo was typical of much of the night interaction between act and audience , in particular Jensen’s sharp wit, clearly in tune with the humour this side of the pond.

With Frodo resettled the show continued apace with the gentle sway of ‘It’s Hard Not To Smile’ getting proceedings underway before the musical landscape shifts once more. Here Jensen declares his love for ragtime and his musical admiration for such luminaries as Leon Redbone and Blind Blake before the duo break into another of their debut albums highlights ‘If I’m Gonna Live A Long Time’. The second instrumental of the night follows with ‘Exit Zero’, again proving what an excellent banjo player Campbell is. It is testament to how strong ‘Turtle cottage’ is as a debut album that throughout the evening’s performance every track from the album is played, and at no point did the quality drop, though one might be as bold as to suggest that all the songs benefited from the live setting where they appeared to grow in stature.

There was still time for a few more cover versions. Firstly ‘Careless Weed’, a lesser known number by JimmyWebb that, though Campbell’s father never recorded, he had put a guitar arrangement to the song which the duo proudly performed. Later in the set they paid homage to Willie Nelson, firstly with ‘Blue Eyes In The Rain’, a song written by Fred Rose that appeared on Nelson’s classic album ‘Red Headed Stranger’ before an encore closed the evening’s concert with the Nelson penned number ‘Bloody Mary Morning’.

The duo left the stage to thunderous applause with Frodo also taking a bow (sorry, couldn’t resist), and the clear affirmation that Campbell/Jensen are among the finest exponents of all that is good within the Americana genre, and if tonight’s performance is anything to go by, this duo are clearly destined for great things.

photo; Mark Dinnage

About Graeme Tait 110 Articles
Hi. I'm Graeme, a child of the sixties, eldest of three, born into a Forces family. Keen guitar player since my teens, (amateur level only), I have a wide, eclectic taste in music and an album collection that exceeds 5.000. Currently reside in the beautiful city of Lincoln.
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