Spider Eating Preacher could be subtitled "The Great West Side Preservation Society" as Eddie C. Campbell, with guidance from longtime friend and producer Dick Shurman, has recaptured the magic of that beautiful style.
That shouldn't come as a surprise as Campbell as a dear friend and bandmate of Magic Sam, one of the true pioneers of the sound, nor should anyone be surprised Campbell has recaptured that essence without making a record that sounds dated, ready to be catalogued in a museum somewhere before it's ever really heard.
Preacher isn't some collection of covers of tired material from the beloved blues canon or thinly disguised rewrites of those classics. Campbell presides over the project with Shurman, who he's known for more than 35 years, and the record became a family affair. His wife plays on much of the record and assisted in the writing process, his son plays on a pair of cuts, and his godson, National Treasure Lurrie Bell, is appears on three. Campbell sounds vital and energized, like he's playing with house money, free to be himself with tricks and licks aplenty, as well as a healthy dose of his own playful sense of humor.
He turns that freedom on one of his early singles "Soupbone," but Shurman notes this updated version is such a drastic departure from that original. He lays down such a great rhythm guitar track and layers lead lines as tasty as the soul food he craves.
"Cut You A-Loose" is perhaps the best known of the disc's few covers (or maybe that's just me because Otis Rush is my blues hero). Campbell takes a far different approach to this Ricky Allen-penned tune and while I'm partial to Otis' version (found on his Cold Day In Hell LP, also for Delmark, as well as on a few of his myriad live albums), Eddie's version really hits the spot.
"All Night" and "Brownout," another instrumental, transport us back to another place and time where blues had a seat at music's Big Boy Table, where it had an identity and a purpose and a sound. It's impossible not to conjure visions of Hollywood's golden age as Eddie croons and gently, precisely pulls notes from nowhere and arranges them just right: always on time, always in place, just the right sound for just the right time.
The instrumental "Starlight" is a brilliant number, the nocturnal allusion of the title being a perfect description of the twin guitar attack of Campbell and Bell. There is sophisticated, jazzy interplay but this is blues played at a beautiful tempo, volume, and tone. Darryl Coutts' organ work is indispensable here and throughout. Godfather and godson make magic together again on "Call My Mama," as the two men exchange brilliant licks. Campbell and his rhythm section then make "Skin Tight" a funk-laden groove sweating it out with a great horn arrangement, the kind of joint illustrating everything disco got wrong in the '70s.
They don't make 'em like they used to, and that's why we should be grateful for Eddie C. Campbell and records like Tear This World Up and Spider Eating Preacher, exciting records in the present tense that take us back to the source.