Rosaryville is the kind of recording you want to curl up with under a reading lamp. Indeed, her songs feel like they shouldn't so much be packaged in a CD jewel case as bound like 10 finely honed short stories. The New Orl... more »eans-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter has inspired as many references to writers (Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor) as musicians (Nanci Griffith, Kris Kristofferson), and with good reason: She treats her lyrics with remarkable care and has a knack for penning truly involving narratives. Rosaryville, her fourth album, offers particularly striking chronicles of a prideful Cuban cigar maker ("Rosa's Coronas") and a dying mother fretting over her soon-to-be-orphaned son ("Who Will Pray for Junior"). Campbell doesn't wow one as a vocalist and her accompaniment is solid but not particularly memorable country folk. It's her way with words that elevates Rosaryville above the contemporary folk pack. --Steven Stolder« less
Rosaryville is the kind of recording you want to curl up with under a reading lamp. Indeed, her songs feel like they shouldn't so much be packaged in a CD jewel case as bound like 10 finely honed short stories. The New Orleans-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter has inspired as many references to writers (Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor) as musicians (Nanci Griffith, Kris Kristofferson), and with good reason: She treats her lyrics with remarkable care and has a knack for penning truly involving narratives. Rosaryville, her fourth album, offers particularly striking chronicles of a prideful Cuban cigar maker ("Rosa's Coronas") and a dying mother fretting over her soon-to-be-orphaned son ("Who Will Pray for Junior"). Campbell doesn't wow one as a vocalist and her accompaniment is solid but not particularly memorable country folk. It's her way with words that elevates Rosaryville above the contemporary folk pack. --Steven Stolder
A fun and challenging offering from an innovative songwriter
A. Bruce Miller | Oakland, CA USA | 08/16/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kate Campbell's fourth disc "Rosaryville" finds the singer-songwriter building on the Southern persona she established in her previous work but taking her musical explorations of family, race, religion, and the eccentricities of ordinary people into intriguing new territories.The music on "Rosaryville" is as evocative as it is fun. The rocking "Porcelain Blue" takes your imagination immediately to the New Orleans French Quarter, where music and Catholic iconography and voodoo mix with spicy food and the spirit of a place where "anything goes," and most everything does. The sad and effective country sound of "Fade to Blue" makes me believe we'll be hearing this song performed by others as well. And if the feeling you get when you hear the opening piano chords of "Look Away" is an unfamiliar one, then you've probably never been inside a rural Southern Protestant church on a Sunday morning."Rosaryville" also illustrates Kate's ability to create vivid characters and stories in a very few words. In "Rosa's Coronas," she reaches even farther South than usual for a complex, nuanced portrait of a working-class Cuban woman. "In My Mother's House" is a glimpse of the ties that bind and divide generations. And Kate's capacity for gentle intensity has never appeared more impressively than on the moving "Who Will Pray for Junior," a beautifully woven tale about a dying mother worrying over the son she's about to leave forever.Just as many of Kate's songs focus on contradiction - between spirituality and greed, between honor and cruelty, between fear and hope - so she presents intriguing contradictions as a performer. The daughter of a Southern Baptist minister who loves hymns and draws on them freely in her own songs, she uses Catholic imagery as comfortably as a former altar girl. A serious intellectual trained as a professional historian, she writes with both sympathy and good humor about the kitschy, roadside-attraction part of American life. A white Southerner who was deeply influenced by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement as a child, she takes us into the fears and resentments of whites who live out their unrelinquished prejudices. As socially conscious as a Joan Baez or a Pete Seeger, she produces impressive snapshots of life rather than "protest" songs.And while Kate often uses religious imagery and comes from a tradition where evangelizing the unenlightened is a believer's first duty, these songs don't aim to convert anyone. Religion in her songs is one more window into the sometimes strange, sometimes scary, but always fascinating characters that emerge from her fertile imagination. The concluding song, "Ave Maria Grotto," pays tribute to folk artists while invoking the peace and mystery of a High Mass. And even someone who has never been inside a church will feel the power and comfort emanating from this song.An added special feature of this disc is that she produced the album herself, so presumably this is how she really wants her albums to sound. The mix allows her own beautiful voice to emerge clearly, not only making the lyrics plain but allowing her to convey her own special emotional twist to the songs.All in all, an exciting piece of work of Kate Campbell fans old and new."
Search for Undying Love
Lee Armstrong | Winterville, NC United States | 02/19/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rosaryville is an intriguing song cycle filled with Catholic images and references to Louisiana and the South. Campbell seems to be searching for something to convince her of the reality of undying love. The album opens with the title track that is a road song with equal parts pop and country. Mike Hanna's organ propels "Porcelain Blue" as Kate sings, "I've heard that love's eternal and I wonder if it's true." The CD is populated by great characters such as the woman in "Rosa's Corona" who longs to stop rolling at the cigar factory to get away to see the Holy Father who is visiting (Cuba?). The Spanish guitar bathes a beautiful melody. "In My Mother's House" is a great little folk song about the prodigal daughter who returns home only to disagree on politics and theology. The pop treatment of "Heart of Hearts" works well with Kenny Vaughn's guitar as Kate sings, "I want to believe that love never fails." "Fade to Blue" is a folk song about one who sets up a shrine to a lost loved one. Campbell's piano overlays the country-inflected melody as the person "goes through the motions of being free." "Who Will Pray for Junior" is another great character song, apparently about a widowed mother who worries about who will love her boy when she's gone. The oddest fit on the CD is "Rosemary" which is a homage to Rosemary Clooney. "Look Away" is a beautiful ballad with a stately melody that recounts a hate crime, possibly the burning of a black church. "Ave Maria Grotto" is a folk homage where Campbell seems to find one character who found love, "People talk about the places they've been but Joseph found peace within." This CD is a wonderful achievement, a song cycle that explores the search for a love eternal, populated with great characters, and performed and written with music that is as intriguing as it is satisfying! Bravo!"
tommy bear | the south | 01/31/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"many people believe that growing up in the south during the turbulent years of the sixties as a white protestant is a history that needs no telling. kate campbeell dispels that notion with a compassionate and wistful view of real characters whose lives were changed forever. in "look away" she sadly expresses the feelings of many of those who lived that time. with a refrain that alludes to the song "dixie" campbell disabuses the poltically correct belief that all white southerners were supporters of hate and bigotry. most never saw the burning crosses surrounded by cowards in white robes.other songs beutifully describe the romanticism and perserverance of a people whose eccentricities are expressions of a creative spirit. campbell expresses for many the spiritual bond that unites many people of the south,black and white,rich and poor. her characters are people not driven by profit , but by passion, sometimes destructive and sometimes constructive. without such people we would all surrounded with a colorless sameness. thank you kate campbell for painting a complete picture!"
Edea P. Baldwin | Quitman, Mississippi | 12/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I visited the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama about six years ago...the song "Ave Maria" brought tears to my eyes and I still get shivers when I listen to it. "Porcelain Blue" will resonate with anyone who loves New Orleans. This is a deeply emotional, evocative album."