Dominick Campana is a one-man-band, producer, studio AND record label based in Albany, New York. He has tons of music history under his belt, enabling him to make this soft rock album that sparkles with expertise and professionalism. Campana recorded and toured with the band Dirty Face in the 1980’s, then switched to music studio production, live production and finally design and installation of music systems. His dizzying list of the guitars, mics and equipment used for this album includes only the best gear available.
The album title Back Pocket seems to refer to songs that Campana’s been keeping “in his back pocket” for years, but it can also indicate that his playing is totally “in the pocket.” Campana’s singing voice is a little rangy and sometimes skirts the edges of the notes, but feels lived-in and trustworthy. In that way he’s similar to the great ’70s songwriters his work recalls: John Hartford, Jimmy Webb, even Gerry Rafferty.
Though all these songs have merit and are flawlessly produced, I’m going to concentrate on my favorites.
The opener “Still Here” starts us off with a Jagger-esque vocal and Mark Knopfler-like lead guitar. This is a moving song about a romance in danger of being lost, and I love his chorus lyrics: “I’m the same boy that you crushed on / the same heart / A different year… and I’ve got to let you know I’m still here.” We also have the first appearance of guest Jorja Chalmers’ 1980’s-infused saxophone.
The catchy “Enzo,” a song about the neighborhood oddball everybody trusts but nobody really knows, feels like an easy-listening hit with prominent bass and Steve Miller-ish synth arpeggios. “Today” is a similarly confident tune with ringing acoustic guitars and tasty leads.
“Will Not Change” is Campana in Beatles “Sexy Sadie” mode, a rollicking piano-based ditty with some of his wittiest lyrics: “You think you’re a historian because you’ve read all those books / Sweat equity’s not required when an App is all it took.” Then it’s a detour into rockabilly for “Until I Die” with guest appearances by Graham Tichy on steel guitar and Mike Kelly on piano.
Unsurprisingly, one of the best cuts here is the finale: a remake of the Dirty Face single “Carousel,” and a tribute to Campana’s late partner Greg Haymes. In this fine song the Gerry Rafferty antecedents feel the strongest, especially with a last, triumphant appearance by sax player Chalmers.
There’s no denying Campana’s songwriting chops and his excellent playing, and most listeners should find these songs quite engaging and winning.
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