Vintage Guitar - April 2016
Guitar Player - Vinyl Treasures column - February 2016
Guitar Player - October 2015
The New Yorker — “A Telecaster Master at the Living Room ”
“...there it was again: the stinging treble, the spooky overtones, the strings snapping and booming under his hands—the sound of a Tele being played as skillfully and exuberantly as it can be played...it sounded like nothing and nobody else—sounded like Jim Campilongo...”
"....Jim Campilongo is one of the most creative, Tele-twisting guitarists in the world, seamlessly melding jazz, early country and blues together in his playing which takes its inspiration from everyone from Chet Atkins to Hendrix, but remains totally unique...."
JazzTimesJim Campilongo article written for JazzTimes "John McLaughlin with Miles Davis"
Jim Campilongo in Scott Yanow's new book "The Great Jazz Guitarists"
Guitar Magazine Japan
I wrote a short article for "Guitar" magazine, the largest guitar magazine in Japan - about guitar records I love. (for our Japanese speaking friends)
"Guitarist" UK magazine
"...Jim Campilongo is one of the most creative, Tele-twisting guitarists in the world, seamlessly melding jazz, early country and blues together in his playing which takes its inspiration from everyone from Chet Atkins to Hendrix, but remains totally unique..."
ToneQuest Report - April 2014
"...one of the most innovative, creative, and interesting guitarists of our time..."
DownBeat Jan. 2014 "Editors' Picks" Dream Dictionary
Guitarist Jim Campilongo, who plays in Norah Jones’ side project The Little Willies, pursues an intriguing, Americana-meets-rock-meets-jazz sound on his 10th album, Dream Dictionary. His simpatico bandmates here are electric bassist Chris Morrissey (Mark Guiliana, Sara Bareilles) and drummer Josh Dion (Pat Martino, John Medeski). Even when one of Campilongo’s originals seems slightly familiar, there’s always an unusual element that gives the track a charming fun-house mirror effect, whether it’s a clever turn in the melody, a sonic technique by producer Andy Tommasi or the addition of a cool texture, such as Dion’s cymbal accents on “Alana.” Jones stopped by the studio to supply the only vocals on the album, with an intimate, bluesy rendition of “Here I Am.” The album showcases 10 originals and one other cover—an interpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” that is a completely overhauled exploration of noir atmospherics. Campilongo is an artist freely following the pull of the muse, whether it takes him to dark, haunting corners or inspires him to reel off a light, smile-inducing jaunt like “Pie Party.”
Village Voice NYC
Recorded under the influence of electric Miles, this nuance-savvy guitarist's new Dream Dictionary contains symbolism to spare. Campilongo hangs on to the laid-back, Americana-tinged twang of his earlier nine albums while heading in a decidedly headier direction with bassist Chris Morrissey and drummer Josh Dion. The three will be here every Monday night for the foreseeable future.
Josh Jackson Interviews Jim Campilongo WBGO
"...Guitarist Jim Campilongo talks with Josh Jackson about his CD Dream Dictionary, which includes songs by Jimi Hendrix and Norah Jones, and his duo with guitarist Steve Cardenas..."
Premiere Guitar - "Dream Dictionary"
"...Campilongo plays like he’s engaging in a long, very personal conversation: It ranges from heated to relaxed, angst-ridden, and even a little flirty—but it’s always fluent, spontaneous and full of nuance, texture, and emotional truth."
USA TODAY - "Dream Dictionary"
"...There's an eyes-half-closed vibe about the song (Here I Am), as a soft and sinister guitar solo sneaks in, gentle and mysterious as rising smoke..."
VINTAGE GUITAR MAGAZINE - "Dream Dictionary"
"....on Dream Dictionary, his patented Telecaster tones take on a greater dimension as he conjures a world of stark harmonics, crushing twang, edgy note selection, and sly humor..."
MWE3.com - "Dream Dictionary"
"...Dream Dictionary is a masterpiece of 21st century guitar-noir..."
USA TODAY - October 2013 - "Dream Dictionary"
"...There's an eyes-half-closed vibe about the song, as a soft and sinister guitar solo sneaks in, gentle and mysterious as rising smoke..."
Campilongo article for JazzTimes "John McLaughlin with Miles Davis"...
Oscar's Guitar Shop with Jim Campilongohttp://www.latalkradio.com/archives/Oscar-101113.mp3
VINTAGE GUITAR - October 2012
WBAI-FM Jim Campilongo Interview with Don Grossinger
Brooklyn Country RadioJim Campilongo - Live Solo Guitar and Interview
PREMIERE GUITAR - The Little Willies - "For the Good Times"
Standing at the crossroads of Roy Buchanan and Roy Nichols, Tele ace Jim Campilongo has forged an original, vibrant style that blends blues, honky tonk, Western swing, and Memphis R&B. And as the lead guitarist in the Little Willies—a quintet that features Norah Jones on piano and vocals— Campilongo gets to thread his strange and beautiful lines into great songs performed by a superb acoustic ensemble.
For the Good Times, the band’s second album, is a collection of country and honky tonk classics by the likes of Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, and Lefty Frizzell. Using soulful, uncluttered arrangements, the band presents the album’s 12 songs with the vocals and lyrics front and center. But wait—what’s that wailing in the background?
Oh yeah, Campilongo’s edgy Tele. He knows all the tricks—and has invented a few of his own—as is immediately apparent in “Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves.” Snarling behind-the-nut bends, whistling harmonics, neck shimmy, and volume-knob wah—it’s all here.
In “Wide Open Road,” Campilongo plays oddball phrases with a bright, slightly frazzy tone to show us how they do chicken pickin’ on Mars. He manages to pull off Les Paul-style harmonized lines sans overdubs in “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time.” His twangy solo in “Remember Me” echoes both Duane Eddy and the modern master of the “low, lonesome” sound, Richard Bennett. In “I Worship You,” Campilongo alternates string-popping runs with steel-like fills, and in “Fist City,” he plays snappy honky-tonk riffs worthy of Don Rich.
Campilongo reveals his jazz chops in Quincy Jones’ swinging “Foul Owl on the Prowl,” outlining the changes with smoky double-stops and sly leading tones. He even squeezes in an original instrumental—“Tommy Rockwood”—a wacky tune paying homage to tracks Merle Haggard’s band the Strangers recorded when their boss was on a break.
This is perfect music for kicking back and enjoying some quality quiet time with a friend. The songs are timeless, the vocals gorgeous, the musicianship first-rate, and Campilongo’s toneful Tele keeps everything delightfully quirky. —Andy Ellis
Must-hear track: “‘Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves”
"...What might steal the show on the album is Jim Campilongo’s guitar. He plays hot-rod country licks with such ease it might make even accomplished guitar players lay it down and walk away..."
POP MATTERS "For the Good Times"
"... one fantastic moment for guitarist Jim Campilongo to show off his guitar chops as he proves he was made to play..."
Guitar Magazine (Japan) 2012
Pittsburgh Post Gazette"..... Mr. Campilongo's approach to country jazz is his own. His concise, witty style, showcased on the instrumental "Tommy Rockwood," blends fiery twang with impeccable taste that dazzles without crossing the line into overkill...." -Rich Kienzle
THE INDEPENDENT (review of Little Willies "For the Good Times")
".... lead guitarist Jim Campilongo stitches together songs such as Ralph Stanley's "I Worship You" and Cal Martin's truckstop waitress tribute "Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves" with his deft Telecaster runs...."
"....besides, what is important here is the ensemble vibe. In Jim Campilongo they have a chap who knows one end of a Telecaster from t'other; the rest of them are listening hard and sharing that energy. Very musical..."
"...... guitarist Jim Campilongo shines on Telecaster, and he’s got the head-spinning licks to impress even the most cynical listener....his solo on the Johnny Cash song Wide Open Road and his stunning baritone work on Fist City push these covers past the standard realm of chord charts and shuffling feet into full-blown, by-god tunes, and ones well worth spinning over and over...."
Cutaway Magazine (Spain) 2012
The Beat Goes On - The Little Willies soar on sophomore set
"...Campilongo’s dazzling, but never show-offy, guitar work... the one original, Campilongo’s largely instrumental “Tommy Rockwood,” fits right in..."
Grass Clippings - The Little Willies
" ... these guys are legit and I hope this isn’t the last album we see from them...."
Canada.com - Review of "For the Good Times"
" .... The big picture: This is old-school country for those who haven't been brainwashed into thinking country music should sound like poppy, soulless shlock...The Little Willies hearken back to Johnny Cash and Hank Williams-style country: raw, powerful, spirited, heartfelt and tinged with elements of the blues, bluegrass and folk ...this is an album that celebrates the good times of country music (my half-hearted apologies go out to the likes of Taylor Swift and Brad Paisley, but it's been a long while since times were good)..."
Lexington Herald Leader Critic's pick: The Little Willies "For the Good Times"
"....The Little Willies' true scene stealer, guitarist Jim Campilongo...versed in the alert, animated guitar chatter of Chet Atkins and the more rustic country soul of Merle Travis but edged on by an intuitive spark all his own, Campilongo simmers this music with abundant cheer ... From the jazzy barnyard guitar leads that color a shuffle-style revision of the Frizzell staple If You've Got the Money I've Got the Time to the twilight blues strut highlighting Foul Owl on the Prowl to the white-hot original instrumental Tommy Rockwood that falls somewhere between Buck Owens and Clarence White, Campilongo is the true life of this roots-infatuated celebration...."
New York Daily News
"...the CD includes one original ditty, “Tommy Rockwood,” an instrumental by guitarist Jim Campilongo. More than anyone in the group, his squirrely leads give this music muscle and motion..."
".....much of the session’s appeal comes from the rootsy, old-school honky-tonk interplay among the band members, also including guitarist Jim Campilongo, who provides the sole original tune -the ultra-twangy instrumental two-step “Tommy Rockwood”..."
GUITAR PLAYER MAGAZINE MAR 2010
"... he is equally at home playing ballads or digging into raging, feedbackspiked solos, and he's probably the only guitarist to claim both Chet Atkins and the the Sex Pistols as primary influences..."
NPR All Things Considered - Little Willies "For the Good Times"".... guitarist Jim Campilongo's string-bending wizardry crests spectacularly before diving back into the ensemble...." -Meredith Ochs
L'Unità (Italy)- July 2011"Un tesoro di note tra jazz e country"
RELIX April 2010
"... Orange is a show-case of what other guitarists wish that they could accomplish, though at the same time, for non-guitar aficionados..."
ALL MUSIC GUIDE
"...Orange proves to be almost as far-reaching as his résumé might indicate. Campilongo comes charging out of the gate on "Backburner," with harmonics jumping out of his Telecaster-on-steroids throughout. "I'm Helen Keller and You're a Waffle Iron" adds a bit of menace and "Fingerpuppet" gets just plain nasty with some wickedly delightful detuning...."
"his latest masterpeice will be released in Feb 2010....his playing style is more than unique, revealing a range that extends from seductive country swing to atmospheric jazz and well beyond..."
".....Our favorite Mad Telecaster SuperGenius, Jim Campilongo, has a brand new album called "Orange" that sets a broad, new, standard for experimentation in melody and intention...."
UNCUT Magazine UK May 2010
"...the result is a gorgeous, mostly instrumental album on which he coaxes diverse moods from his telecaster..." "...the highlight is a dissolute rendering of "When You Wish Upon a Star", but it's run close by two vocal efforts in which Leah Siegel drags the Stones "No Expectations" and the Stooges "No Fun" up a dark alley and hypnotizes them..."
JAZZTIMES - April 2010"... you've got the makings of a very twisted guitar hero who deserves worshipping. Clever, crafty, quirky and cool.
Read Full Review
JAMBASE"Simply stunning - an album instrumental music fans will likely quickly salute as a classic...""..... Orange bursts with succulent playing and juicy compositions, an ear-snagging winner in every regard. (DC)
CANADIAN AUDIOPHILE"....With Orange, new ground is forged yet again and Campilongo's forward momentum is unstoppable. Nomadic and adventurous, CampilongoÕs playing belongs everywhere and nowhere all at once. Trying to peg him in a genre is a little like trying to catch a wild rabbit with your bare hands Ð if you do actually pull it off, you kinda feel bad about it and just let the little fucker go....."
VINTAGE GUITAR - March 2010"...Jim Campilongo's latest record is one of those great guitar discs that serves up new treats every time you listen..."
Download PDF of full review
Download PDF interview from April edition
CONCERTO (Germany) - February 2010
FRETBASE"Orange" is a remarkable collection of mostly instrumental tracks that feature the wide range of mind-bending guitar playing. Jim Campilongo mixes it up, changing styles and feel from to track to track giving a great variety
ToneQuest Report - March 2010It is the provenance of a precious few who can so beautifully mine the harmonic depth of a Telecaster with the grace and fluid fantasy of Jim Campilongo. Orange offers another vivid glimpse into the mind of an artist who paints masterpieces with the guitar...
Download PDF Interview
Mix Magazine - March 2010From his almost Hendrix-like aggression on the opener, “Backburner,” to the airy “Blues for Roy,” to the bittersweet solo performance of “When You Wish Upon a Star” that closes the album, the tunes are unified by Campilongo's musical soul and character.
Read more »
Time Out NYC - February 2010His prodigious talent is always evident as the band burns through tunes crammed with rock, jazz and country flourishes. But even a casual observer can see that everything Campilongo plays is in service to his songwriting.
Read more »
RADIO: Josh Jackson Wbgo "Checkout" Campilongo Interviewhttp://www.wbgo.org/thecheckout/?p=1892
RADIO: Andy Ellis Guitar Show - Campilongo Talks Orange...http://www.theguitarshow.com/interview-jimcampilongo.html
Premier Guitar - February 2010"When you're a serious fan of the combination of Fender Telecaster and Blackface Princeton Reverb amp, there is no way around Jim Campilongo..."
Read the whole article starting on page 25
Ink KC - Feburary 2010Orange is a record that will have guitar geeks' jaws on the floor, but it also presents enough moments of absolute beauty that listeners with no particular interest in the instrument itself will find plenty to love.
Read more »
Popshifter Interview - January 2010An in-depth interview with Jim appears in the current issue of Popshifter magazine:
The Life Of A 21st Century Musician: An Interview With Jim Campilongo
ADK Telesound - Dec 2009".....I purchased it and let me tell you Jim does not disappoint! From the gritty tone of Backburner to the haunting melody of Chelsea Bridge Jim has created a masterpiece! I highly recommend this album!...."
Urban Semiotic - Dec 2009".....Our favorite Mad Telecaster SuperGenius, Jim Campilongo, has a brand new album called "Orange" that sets a broad, new, standard for experimentation in melody and intention...."
DIRECT CURRENT REVIEW OF "ORANGE" - Dec 2009
Guitarist Jim Campilongo has been called a "national treasure" by Billboard, an extraordinarily intuitive and gifted player who is not only renowned as an in-demand session player (for the likes of Norah Jones and Martha Wainwright) but as a musical visionary who has staked out his own creative outlook over the course of eight solo albums. With a ringing, sinewy style that sometimes sounds like it's literally being squeezed from his trusty '59 Telecaster, Campilongo finds that rarified space on a song that is distinctive without being overly showy, filling the spaces with a restraint that still manages to let his virtuosity shine through.
New February 16 album Orange is yet another collection of remarkable fret work from Campilongo, an astonishingly diverse assortment of instrumentals that should appeal to fans of Jeff Beck, Roy Buchanan and anyone who has secretly strutted a few air guitar riffs now and then. Produced by Anton Fier and backed by drummer Tony Mason and bassist Stephen Crump, Orange also boasts two outstanding covers -- The Stones' "No Expectations" and The Stooges' "No Fun" -- featuring vocalist Leah Siegel. Slowed and stripped to the core, these songs simply put Campilongo's inspired playing directly up against Siegel's impassioned voice in a one-on-one match that will raise goosebumps. The aptly titled,scorching instrumental workout "Backburner" kicks off Orange with an incendiary, muscular kick, setting and then blowing out the stage for the glorious works to come. Highly recommended.http://www.directcurrentmusic.com/music-news-new-music/2009/12/11/jim-campilongo-orange.html
TONEQUEST - Jan 2008 - Interview
“A few especially, gloriously twisted players possess the power to spark an uncomfortable bout of
soul searching when we experience their music first-hand. You needn't even find the music itself
remotely approachable enough to attempt to play, but when we hear something that is conceived
with extraordinary creativity and a unique signature that defies imitation, it is always hard to
Download Full Interview (PDF, 916kb)
VILLAGE VOICE NYC JAN 3, 2008
JIM CAMPILONGO at BARBES
“Wiles and chops make the guitarist what he is: an engaging improviser whose interest in entertainment is equal to his interest in art. His supple moves can keep an audience enthralled - meaning their asses wiggle and their minds jiggle. Few connect the dots between jazz and twang like this guy.”
TimeOut New York - October 2007 - Top 50 Essential NYC Secrets
JIM CAMPILONGO IN TOP 50 ESSENTIAL NYC SECRETS IN THIS WEEKS TIME OUT...
"...New York has no shortage of guitar heroes but few cover as many bases as Jim Campilongo..." "...reveals a range that extends from seductive country-swing to atmospheric jazz and well beyond...
Click to read full article
BILLBOARD - March 2007 - Live show review
"...an overall killer course on How To Play Your Instrument Putting All Others To Shame. The man can jam. His instrumental compositions are practically lyrical, mixing blues with jazz with country. A real treasure..."
Dirty Linen - May 2007Jim Campilongo "Heaven Is Creepy"
Electric guitarist Jim Campilongo's star has risen since he moved to New York City from California a few years back. Campilongo's participation in the Little Willies project with Norah Jones has given the versatile guitarist higher visibility. His latest recording, "Heaven Is Creepy", finds the guitarist working with bassist Tim Luntzel and drummer Dan Rieser. It is a showcase for Campilongo's versatile forays into country picking("The Prettiest Girl In New York"), rock ("Monkey In a Movie"), and jazz (the film noir title tune) and highlights his facility at backing up vocalists Jones ("Cry Me a River") and Martha Wainwright (Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer").
Hanx Net (Sweden)Jim Campilongo "Heaven Is Creepy" (Blue Hen)
"Jim Campilongo plays the guitar his very own way. Not fast and furious, but every note goes straight from the snare to your heart, without interferences."
- Patrick Donders
Trots Allt (Sweden)
"Jim Campilongo is maybe mostly known for his involvement in The Little Willies with Norah Jones. On his own, his music is bluesy and jazzy, not far from my old hero Roy Buchanan. The same gentle touch on his Telecaster, the
same burning glow in his fingers, the same ability to dynamics and finesse, putting more trust into the fingers, than into some effect pedals. Both Norah Jones and Martha Wainwright is helping out with vocals on the album, which isn't quite neccessary - His own guitar sings good enough....."
- Magnus Sundell
Sing Out! - March 2007 - "Heaven Is Creepy" Review"....Multi-faceted, genre-crossing ideas expertly expressed by a trio exhibiting phenomenal chemistry throughout..."
Instrumental Guitarist Jim Campilongo's career began in the mid-1970s in his native San Francisco where he began studying with the eccentric Bunnie Gregoire, who taught the youngster to open his ears to all kinds of music- from George Van Eps to Glenn Campbell. After exposure to white bluesman like Roy Buchanan and Johnny Winter, jazz stylists Allan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin, the slide guitar genius of Muddy Waters and the fluid, delay-line saturated fret-board wizardry of Nashville's Chet Atkins, Campilongo began decoding it alll his own way on a 1959 Telecaster, a gift from an appreciative student.
After a local run with Ten Gallon Cats, where he brilliantly updated the classic country sound of Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant, Campilongo moved to New York. There he formed his acclaimed Electric Trio and was soon touring Europe and Scandinavia on the heels of their "American Hips" release- a CD that garnered praise from Guitar Player and No Depression alike. This new project also features the deep-toned upright bass of Tim Luntzel and the deft percussion work of Dan Rieser with organist Jon Dryden on two tracks (the eerily adventurous "Menace" and a bluesy balled called "Because You Like Trombone") and vocal turns from Martha Wainwright and Norah Jones.
Other melody -rich Campilongo originals encompass the reverb-rich, sprightly opener "The Prettiest Girl in New York", the brooding title song (with some compelling finger-picking) and the inspired jam "Monkey In a Movie" while one of the set's two covers appears twice. Early on, the Campy Trio (their billing every Monday at the Lower East Sides Living Room) deliver a laid back, prenatural version of the lounge classic "Cry Me A River" with Jones adding an airily moody vocal on a revisit. Also noted is a nimble fingered "Nellie Bly" and the quietly elegant "Pepper".
Multi-faceted, genre-crossing ideas expertly expressed by a trio exhibiting phenomenal chemistry throughout.
PASTE - MARCH 2007 Jim Campilongo "Heaven Is Creepy"
"...Norah acquits herself well on the standard "Cry Me a River..."
Star Ledger -- February 16 2007A music lover's musician
NEW YORK -- It must be Monday night, if the sound of someone making a guitar growl like a fighter one second and cry like a lover the next comes bleeding out of the Living Room on the Lower East Side.
For the past three years, that someone has been Jim Campilongo. His ongoing late-night Monday residency at the club finds the guitarist making a combination of wood, wire, tubes and electricity speak in tongues that Jimi Hendrix, Roy Buchanan and Django Reinhardt would've all understood.
There are no digital doodads to help Campilongo make his menagerie of sounds, just his vintage Telecaster, Fender amp and hard-won technique. To call the San Francisco-bred Brooklynite a virtuoso is to sell him short. He isn't just a musician's musician; he is a music lover's musician.
When Campilongo rolls out his tune "Monkey in a Movie," his hands conjure an aural joy ride, all detuned rumbles, popping riffs, wind-shear harmonics and strings wildly bent if not broken. One doesn't have to be a guitar geek to enjoy watching him play as much as listening.
As for the bare-knuckle values that even see him wham without a whammy bar and wah without a wah-wah pedal, Campilongo says, "It's a question of intimacy, a connection -- you with your instrument and the audience with you. By today's standard of effects, even Hendrix was out there naked. I see a lot of guys now having a relationship with their tone. I want a relationship with the music and the people playing next to me."
ÊÊ One waggish headline writer dubbed Campilongo's style "free-range twang," hinting at his Chet Atkins influence and earlier Bay Area fame as leader of the 10 Gallon Cats, a cowboy-jazz combo. But the guitarist's sound has taken on a noir tinge over the past decade. A classic detective film could be scored with his recent albums, which vibrate with neon romanticism. But Campilongo is no nostalgia merchant. Even the title of his new disc, "Heaven Is Creepy," suggests a modernist sense of humor.
Off stage, Campilongo, 48, can seem to step out of a Raymond Chandler novel, with his blue-on-black vintage suits (including tie clasp) and polite, old-school masculinity. But he's also the kind of guy who takes a call from his 89-year-old father back in San Francisco and thinks nothing of saying, "I love you, Dad" in front of a reporter at a crowded hipster cafe.
After having his head spun by Cream and his big sisters' Beatles records, Campilongo took his first guitar lessons at age 14 from "an old beatnik woman." Later, after getting into Reinhardt and Muddy Waters, he had the epiphany of California country with the likes of Buck Owens, whose Buckaroos "were about the coolest, most rocking band you could imagine," he recalls. "Even the Beatles dug Buck."
Last Monday, Campilongo paired with jazzer Steve Cardenas for a mid-evening set of swinging acoustic duets at Rockwood Music Hall. That was just a prelude before he joined his stone-solid Electric Trio rhythm section -- double-bassist Richard Hammond and drummer Tony Mason -- at the nearby Living Room.
"Two gigs in one night, just around the corner from one another -- this is what I always thought a musician's life would be," Campilongo says with a little boy's smile. "I love it here."
It's been 4 1/2 years since Campilongo went from being a big fish in the Bay Area pond to swimming against a new tide in New York. He has since made the scene at the Knitting Factory and 55 Bar, not to mention striking a chord on a big-money jingle or two. And he has made illustrious friends, playing in the hit band Little Willies with Norah Jones. Jones also lent vocals to two of his albums, including a lovely "Cry Me a River" on the new disc.
Jones and avant-songstress Martha Wainwright (who coos "Beautiful Dreamer" on "Heaven Is Creepy") have been among the luminaries to sit in with Campilongo at the Living Room. Lately, though, the spotlight has been firmly on Campilongo and a batch of fresh material, some of which reveals his Gotham-inspired edge. The jazz ballads take on a twisted aspect, while the country shuffles rocked. The metallic "Finger Puppet" sounded like the score to a lost Twilight Zone episode.
There was also a cover of "Manic Depression" that had Campilongo sounding like Hendrix fronting the Buckaroos. But the guitarist's sensitive side showed, too, with a shimmering, soul-deep version of Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" and a rendition of "Cry Me a River" that didn't need a famous singer to sigh and moan.
Vintage Guitar Interview, February 2007Jim Campilongo - Sounds Abound
A quick listen to Telecaster master Jim Campilongo's latest record, "Heaven Is Creepy", or for that matter any of his older recordings will let you in on a secret. He is not content with the normal guitar sounds that most of us tend to look for. "Yeah, I've always loved sounds. Even before I became a Tele guy, I had a Les Paul and loved making car horn sounds. I had an ES-330. They had a little bridge and I figured out all the notes. I would(and still do) immediately go away from the fretboard, or into the toggle switches, or try for feedback. I guess I've always been very attracted to odd sounds."
Well, that's not all Jim's got going for him. His jazz and country instincts and adventurous nature help make him one of today's really unique players. "I try to always play at least one new tune at every gig. So I have a good amount of material when I go in to record." The songs can range from the pithy pop of "The Prettiest Girl in the World", to two different versions of "Cry Me A River" on the new record. On the instrumental version, Jim takes it places you may never expect to hear the classic. Then, when his fellow member in the group the Little Willies, Norah Jones, joins him for a vocal version, it's done beautifully and with reverence to past pop versions.
A list of Jim's influences is as diverse as his playing style. "Roy Buchanan was a huge influence, Muddy Waters, live Cream, the "Howard Roberts is a Dirty Guitar Player" record. I then really got into Django, Chet Atkins, Roy Nichols, John Mclaughlin. Just a mish-mosh of stuff. Maybe that's what I am, a whole melting pot of stuff."
For years Jim was associated with the San Francisco area, but moved to New York City several years back. "I thought there might be some opportunity here that might not be in San Francisco. I was hoping I could do some things that might be a little more challenging. It's worked out well, knock on wood, and I absolutely love New York City. I some ways the move helped me to redefine myself because of some press I've gotten that helped articulate things about my music that I hoped would be said. Plus, I've been able to do sessions and some of my music is being used in commercials."
Jim's also did a CD and short tour with the aforementioned Little Willies. That put him on national TV on a couple of occasions, including a nerve-wracking appearance on "The Conan O'Brien Show". "We did "Roly Poly" and learned that was kind of a tough tune to do on national TV. There were cameras all over my hands for that intro. Conan introduces us and it's like (sings intro to song, which is a quick syncopated run). I was like "don't choke" and I didn't. I would have to say that was one of the most pressured moments of my career." An appearance on "Late Night With David Letterman" presented a different problem. "It was literally 37 degrees in the studio. My guitar kept going really sharp. So up until seconds before we started, I was just tugging on my strings and tuning. It was so cold you could see your breath!"
Jim's Tele is a '59. "It's a top loader. The strings go through the bridge. I didn't even notice that when I got it. I'm not a real equipment guy, I just really like the guitar. It does have a bit of a rubbery feel and a nice woody sound. I use D'Addario strings, starting with an .009. They're great strings. For an amp, I used a Fender Vibrolux for awhile, but when I moved to New York, a great pedal steel player named Bobby Black pretty much just gave me a black-faced Princeton Reverb. I started playing it and just fell in love with it. It has a lot of head room and you can turn it up and you're not going to hurt anybody. And I like to play loud. Plus, it sounds great in the studio and they compress nicely with the Tele." Jim says cables make a difference too. "I try to use a short cable." With a laugh, he adds, "Sometimes I can't even make it to the microphone. That was a problem with the Willies, so I got a little longer cord, but usually I like a ten-footer. I think you can really hear the difference." Jim also uses no effects, which is astonishing when you hear his vast array of sounds. "As soon as you plug one thing in it's like this whole domino factor happens. I mean it's frustrating enough being an electric guitar player that your sound and your technique have to change in every room you play. And then you add five effects and up the combinations and possibilities. I try to have the mentality of plugging in, get a sound, get used to it fast, then listen to the high hat and bass, and get into the music."
Campilongo's records are always like fun adventures and multiple listens reward you with new treasures. I wasn't surprised by his answer when I asked him what CDs he'd been listening to lately. "The past couple of days I've listened to Thelonius Monk's "Piano Solo", Chopin's "Nocturne", the Sex Pistols "Never Mind the Bollocks", which is just a great rock and roll record, and yesterday I was listening to Buck Owens and the Buckaroos "Together Again" and thinking "is this the greatest country band ever or what?"." It's not hard to see why Jim's records and playing can keep you guessing.
RYTMI magazine (Finland)HEAVEN IS CREEPY Many-sided virtuoso shows his skills
The Telecaster wizard Jim Campilongo who moved from San Francisco to New York sounds like Bill Frisell, Danny Gatton and Chet Atkins had been put into a blender.
In his style he reflects equally country, blues, jazz and evergreen ballads, like Cry Me A River, which we hear both as instrumental and cooed by Norah Jones. Martha Wainwright sings the old lullaby Beautiful Dreamer piquant eccentrically.
Campilongo«s axe sings superdynamic with drums and doublebass, mode changing quickly from liquid sensual to brisk roars. A clear virtuosity can be seen as a bonus or a ballast depending on the listener. The album is finished by a ghost-like sensitive interpretation of Kaj Chydenius« brilliant song Laulu kuolleesta rakastetusta.
- translation courtesy Jukka Vaaja
Blues Review - Feb 2007 - Heaven Is Creepy
Guitarist Jim Campilongo began his career in San Francisco, fronting a band called Ten Gallon Cats and doing sessions for musicians who ranged from bluesman Preacher Boy and neo-folksinger Stephen Yerkey to the eccentric Sacramento alt. rockers Cake.
Since packing off to Brooklyn, Campilongo has been part of the circle of musicians that includes Grammy-winning singer-pianist Norah Jones. He's one of two guitar players in her country-meets-pop Little Willies group, and he also holds down a weekly performance residency at the Living Room Lounge, a club where musicians tend to hang out.
For his latest personal project, Campilongo and Jones' drummer Dan Rieser, along bassist Tim Luntzel, have recorded the 12-track Heaven Is Creepy - a daring title likely to keep it out of the bins at Wal-Mart. The 40 plus-minute disc is all-instrumental except for two tracks featuring the sweet-voiced Ms. Jones and chanteuse Martha Wainwright. But even with their recognition factor/marquee value, the release is really a treatise on what an adventurous guitar player who merges jazz, blues, rock, and country can accomplish.
Consider what Campilongo does with two versions of the old Julie London hit "Cry Me a River." There is an instrumental version that clocks in past the five-minute mark that is loaded with abrasive, sprung note-sounding guitar work that is as edgy as a late-night walk in lower Manhattan. The second version, with Ms. Jones adding the lyrics, is a shimmering, FM-friendly return to the song's soft, sad origins.
The track with Wainwright (daughter of folksinger Loudon Wainwright III) offers a similar juxtaposition. She sings the Civil War-era Stephen Foster song "Beautiful Dreamer," with Campilongo's trio providing modest accompaniment. They then slam into "Menace," an appropriately titled original powered by chunky chords which give way to Django Reinhardt-style picking. It's a daring performance.
Campilongo and his mates, in the oddly titled "Mr. & Mrs. Mouse," also venture into that strange terrain where surf guitar meets the music of soundtrack composer Ennnio Morricone. Admirers of such bands as Scenic, Calexico, and Friends of Dean Martinez will be much taken with this track. As for the title tune, who knew that the music of the Celestial City leans toward dissonance? Not angelic but damnably good.
DOWNBEAT DEC 2006 - HEAVEN IS CREEPY 4 STARS!
A New York City -based guitarist originally from San Francisco, Campilongo has a free-wheeling musical personality that his new trio album with bassist Tim Luntzel and drummer Dan Rieser captures in all it's breadth. He plays with dash and color, the sound of surprise informing his tone and lines, at complete ease in a country jazz-and-extras style forged out of influences like Jimmy Bryant, Charlie Christian, Roy Buchanan and Jimmie Rivers. As if 10 riveting instrumentals weren't enough, "Cry Me A River" has honest singing by one of his bandmates in the Little Willies, Norah Jones.
Guitar One - Dec 2006 - Heaven Is Creepy
Norah Jone's Sideman Leads Strange and Exciting Trio
Long master of the Telecaster, Jim Campilongo has a style that can be described as a cross between Chet Atkins and Thelonius Monk. Hailing from from the Bay Area, he began gigging in the late 70's, playing in cover bands, and was soon doing session work; in the 90's, he started his own eccentric country-jazz thing with the 10 Gallon Cats.
Now based in New York, Campilongo has been lending his uncommon taste as a sideman to Norah Jones in the Little Willies. As a leader, meanwhile, Campilongo has just released "Heaven Is Creepy"(Blue Hen), which he recorded with his electric trio-bassist Tim Luntzel and drummer Dan Rieser. The album features 10 original instrumentals, plus one song each with Jones and Martha Wainwright, and is at once off-center and accessible; it should appeal to guitar fans of all stripes.
Guitar World - Dec 2006 - Heaven Is Creepy
"EVEN COWBOYS GET THE BLUES"
Robert Randolph and Jim Campilongo ride through uncharted territory on two new releases
Guitarists Robert Randolph and Jim Campilongo are space cowboys. Not the kind that explore the outer reaches of the cosmos, like Fred Frith or the late Sonny Sharrock, but ones that patrol the back 40 of pop, jazz, blues, r&b, funk and country, looking for holes in the fences.
Campilongo is a telecaster master based just across the Hudson River, in Manhattan, but he came up in San Francisco smitten with such diverse influences as Muddy Waters, the Sex Pistols, Chet Atkins and especially, Roy Buchanan, the mercurial lost soul of the Tele whose vocabulary of tricks included pedal-steellike volume swells, divebomb atonalities, over-the-nut string bending, jet-fueled chromatic runs and heavenly clusters of chiming overtones.
All of Campilongo's Buchananisms appear on "Heaven Is Creepy" but there's a consistent hush in his music that was typically absent in Buchanan's blustery playing. It disappears at times, like when he's thumb-snapping the fat strings on "Monkey In a Movie", making it abundantly clear that, in this snarling jazz-rock-country-fusion, the simian subject is King Kong. But it guides his sensibility in an instrumental version of the chestnut "Cry Me A River" even as it'sd melody gets the alien autopsy treatment, stretched and warped in all directions by his wicked singing bends and staccato phrasing.
There's more than imitation to Campilongo, He has the imagination to reinvent surf music as a melodic successor to western swing in "Mr and Mrs Mouse". And his unrushed approach and generous tone create a comfortable, burnished grace that's distictly all his own. When Jones steps in near the disc's end for a vocal reading of "Cry Me A River", Campilongo's big bare-boned notes are not just the perfect skeleton for her full-blooded phasing. They paint a melody strong and colorful enough to stand alone and, unlike the instrumental take, be recognized.
With inventive playing like this, Randolph and Campilongo are in plenty of praise themselves, no matter which side of the fence they're riding.
San Francisco Chronicle Interview, Sept 2006
Jim Campilongo makes the move from SF to NYC -- and finds the musician in himself
-Derk Richardson, special to SF Gate
READ FULL INTERVIEW (opens in new window)
Village Voice, Sept 2006
"...From the man who channels his mood swings equally with his axe swings, local guitar maven Campilongo takes his (as Jim Macnie so accurately coined) "Twangadelica" stepwise into gorgeousness..." ".... Bow down and take communion when he warbles out the drugged out mega-reverbeb version of "Cry Me A River". Bravo!...."
Ken Barnes, USA TODAY
"... Cry Me a River - an eerie instrumental filled with his rubbery twang-jazz improvisations..."
Guitar Player Magazine, July 2006, "FREE RANGE TWANG"
"...He pounces all over the albums 13 cuts like a freaky cat on a tasty mouse, with whooping behind-the-nut bends and growling de-tuned nastiness..."READ FULL INTERVIEW (opens in new window)
Time Out New York, May 2006
" ...One of the City's strongest regular playing musicians..."
All About Jazz, March 2006, Little Willies"...There's not a pedal steel guitar to be found here, only the honest piano of Jones and stinging electric guitar of Jim Campilongo, sharpening the edges...."
Monsters And Music, Mar 2006, Little Willies"...In the studio, Jones and musical friends, including Richard Julian and Lee Alexander, distill the fun, down-to-earth spirit of their live shows. Fred Rose's revved-up country swing "Roly Poly" sets the stage with smooth vocals, brushed drums and killer guitar licks courtesy of Jim Campilongo. Jones bathes in piano glitz (Elvis Presley's "Love Me") and gets tipsy on Nelson's "I Gotta Get Drunk," but sparks fly when her honeyed verve blends with Julian's sandpaper vocals on the poignant "No Place to Fall."
NY Times Ben Ratliff, Mar 2006, Little Willies"...There's a wild card, though, in the guitarist Jim Campilongo. He's a hotshot on the Fender Telecaster - with close readings of country guitarists like Jimmy Bryant, James Burton and Don Rich - and here his playing is a little bit disruptive and bizarre. But he's a good influence on the record: he wakes it up, helps it get over its frumpiness..."
"...And then there's Mr. Campilongo, whose clankiness is so good that one can understand the album as a good guitar record with bits of singing here and there..."
Guitar Magazine, Japan
Billboard Magazine, March 2006, The Little Willies"... revved-up country swing "Roly Poly" sets the stage with smooth vocals, brushed drums and killer guitar licks courtesy of Jim Campilongo..."
The New Yorker, Jan 2006"...Jim Campilongo holds court. American music is a melting pot of influences, but few guitarists capture the nuances as well as Campilongo does..."
Village Voice, April 2005
Jim Campilongo, 55 Bar -- Twangadelica is where the guitarist starts. Where he winds up can be any number of places. But from purposefully bastardized takes of Chet Atkins to skronk-roll extrapolations, he's always cognizant of tickling his audience, not himself. --MACNIE
New York Post, April 2005
MONDAYS: You'll thank yourself for stumbling into the Jim Campilongo Electric Trio show on any given Monday this month.
Campilongo is one of those New York secrets. A master of the electric guitar, he weaves in spaghetti western picks, blues chords and jazz refs into his haunting tunes, a combo of originals and covers.
While he attracts special guests such as Anton Fier and Norah Jones, he's a treat all by himself.
Puremusic.com — Review of American Hips
I think that I saw the baddest Telecaster player on the planet last night, his name is Jim Campilongo. I mean, I definitely saw him, but I think he's really that good. He had that plank talking and squawking, from a whispered melody to an oncoming train.
I've heard of Jim now for over a dozen years, he was a legend in San Francisco for many years before he became a New York guitar luminary.
Allow me to explain a little (for those who may not know) that the Telecaster is a Fender electric guitar that's been around since the 50s. It is a very popular guitar in Country music of every description, but it's also a splendid axe for jazz and rock, especially blues based rock. One of its signature sounds is a biting, angular tone that cuts through anything and everything, but in a very pleasing and satisfying way, in the hands of the anointed. Some of its most distinguished champions have been Roy Buchanan, Robbie Robertson, Danny Gatton, Jimmy Page, and Clarence White. There are, inevitably, many others. My point here is that the name Jim Campilongo needs to be added to the short list of anybody who's keeping one. (The Fender sibling Stratocaster is usually associated with a little rounder sound, sometimes a kind of "quacky" sound as well. Its well known champions include Hendrix, Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mark Knopfler, and a cast of thousands.)
We hope that in digressing here we include more music lovers on the inside of this great record, it's certainly suited to and intended for more than just lovers of guitar music. Bottom line, Campilongo is a fascinating improviser and composer. All the tunes on the record are his, aside from covers of "Aint She Sweet," "Michelle" and "Sweet Dreams," one of the two songs that feature his friend Norah Jones on vocals.
He was very funny, kind and gracious in his patter between songs, far more eloquent than your average guitar slinger. You must listen to the clips of Jim's guitar on the Listen page, for it's unlikely that you've ever heard anyone play the guitar quite like him. Even at his tender age, he is already a statesman of the guitar, and worthy of even greater recognition around the globe. Before the rumored new album gets underway in the studio, get acquainted with American Hips, here.
- Frank Goodman
Vintage Guitar, December 2003 - Review of American Hips
To say Jim Campilongo is a unique guitar player is like saying James Brown is funky. His playing is totally original and keeps growing. And the beautiful thing is that he seems to be getting more and more unique.
The title/opening cut is a perfect example. It's funky, but not J.B. funky. The feel is unique. There are bends Jim pulls in, kicking and screaming. Then there's chunky chicken pickin' - but not your everyday country-style chirping, but a really one-of-a-kind sound. You can hear more of that on "Cat Under A Car." The mix of harmonic squeals, bends, and distorted chords would make up the best horror show theme you've ever heard.
Even when things to be getting off to a normal start, they take a left turn. "Like, Hello?" kicks off like a hoedown stomp. But you can tell things aren't going to be normal when Jim comes in de-tuning while playing. Of course he plays killer pentatonic licks that would make a Country player proud. But it's soon back into no-mans land with some funny and original bass-note licks that are completely off the wall.
All the originals here bear Jim's mark. The ballads have beautiful chordal work you won't hear anyone else play. Loud Tele squeals, honks, and harmonic rings are everywhere.
As for covers, there a couple and as you'd expect they're total overhauls. His take on Lennon and McCartney's "Michelle" is irresistably gorgeous, and a little odd. The familiar melody up front is stated with some chordal work that will have you scurrying to your guitar to try and figure it out.
From there, Jim and the boys go on excurions that often showcase the melody, but also let you in their unique vision of the song. Same for the old warhorse "Ain't She Sweet."
After one listen, you'll have no doubt Jim is a great player. But he likes to mess around with expectations. There are also two cuts featuring vocals, both supplied by Grammy-winner Norah Jones; "Sweet Dreams" and "Stella" are dreamy tunes that let Jim show off his harmonic talents.
I love this record, and Campilongo's playing.
He's sort of the Tom Waits of guitar players. That may
be a little unfair, but his methods and sounds
definitely bring Waits to mind. His chops are
incredible, and the trio setting gives him plenty of
room to explore.
- Jim Hilmar
Village Voice, NYC, May 2004"With original tunes vivid enough to be heard as character studies, the guitarist's music is ultra-vivid. Whether he's twanging or banging -- some variant thereof is usually in the air -- he's putting a terrific technique to work."
Blues Revue, Dec 2003"A noted Tele-twangler returns: the new album (AMERICAN HIPS) offers the best of blues, country,and jazz, from the sublime to the sick... immaculate chord-melody work... avant-roots meet uptown grit..."
Direct From Finland...
Finnish Newspaper "Keskisuomalainen" gives American Hips 4 Stars (Oct 2003)
"Campilongo guitar plays like magic!"
"Jim Campilongo is the most interesting thing to come out of the Blues front in along time. As a guitarist Campilongo is a real master and stunning improviser."
Village Voice, NYC, November 03"Campilongo's trio is go anywhere, do anything outfit that invites Chet Atkins to a sleepover at Jim Hall's house"
The New York Times, October 2003
"...through the lean ropy sound of his Fender
Telecaster, Mr. Campilongo connects American styles
(Blues, Rock, Country, Jazz, R&B) in a sly knowing
Guitar Player Magazine, November 2003
Tele Master Jim Campilongo lets 'er rip on American
Hips - easily his best effort to date. The components
of Campilongo's sound are simple - wire, wood, and
hands - just like his hero, Roy Buchanan. And, like
Buchanan, Campilongo treats every note like his
last. But Campilongo isn't simply a Buchanan devotee.
Underneath the exposed-nerve twang lurks a dark
compositional sense. Think of what it would sound like
if Roy Nichols was asked to record the soundtrack to
the film-noir classic "The Big Sleep", and you'll
get the idea. "American Hips" also features two
tracks with Grammy bogarter Norah Jones, who lends
beautiful vocal perfomances on "Stella" and "Sweet
Dreams." Go do your inspirational muse some good and
get "American Hips." It's a great record by a player
who just keeps getting better.
- Darrin Fox
No Depression Magazine #47, September 2003
Review Of American Hips
It is easy to have your own sound on guitar -- just play what you feel. So why do so most guitarists sound like carbons of other guitarists? They work very hard at it; sitting in their rooms for days copying famous licks, thus gaining presold acceptance. Jim Campilongo obviously put in serious listening time, but somehow it got filtered through a sensitive, fiery, quirky, personality, coming out fresh and distinctive. (Warning -- excessive practicing during the Wonder years can prevent developing a personality.) This guitarist wrings the elements of his soul through a Telecaster and puts them on display for the public. Scary stuff, and another reason so few attempt it. Luckily Campilongo's courageous exposure provides us with the naked romanticism of "Between Your Toes", the carnival wackyiness of "Like, Hello?", and the swampy grit of "Jim,s Blues" -- this a person that you want to know. Another distinctive voice, Nora Jones, helps out on "Sweet dreams and Stella". Critic Paul Williams once said, "We meet the artists who are important to us in those works of theirs in which they meet themselves" Campilongo meets himself every time he picks up his instrument; that brand of artistic bravery is rare and to be treasured.
Amazon.com editorial review, August 2003
In 1948 Leo Fender and "Doc" Kaufmann invented the Telecaster electric guitar. A slab of wood with some magnetic pickups, it remains one of our most expressive musical tools. Guitarists from Roy Buchanan to Jeff Beck to Robbie Robertson have wrenched from it a wide range of pure emotion--from whispers of love to screams of anguish. Tele-wrangler Jim Campilongo has fit easily into this august company for some time now. On this record he once again exhibits a combination of aggressive squalling, sharp wit, sensitive melodicism, quirkiness, and compositional skill, all with using a musical language that is uniquely his own. Norah Jones, who has run in the same musician circles of New York, helps out on the country standard "Sweet Dreams" and the aching waltz "Stella." Whether conjuring up feline sounds in "Cat Under a Car" or wry regret in "Bought Some Swampland in Florida," Campilongo has mastered the rare art of telling stories without words--so much so that the addition of Jones's poignant vocal to "Stella" seems almost an afterthought.
ilpopolodelblues.com - Italy, August 2003
Jim Campilongo is a minor genius. His guitar playing
evokes story of desert and despair, desolation and
deaths. Stories that don't need words to be told but
just the smart sound of Campilongo's electric axe. And
if there are words to be heards and stories to be told
by an accurate singer nobody does it better than sweet
and innocent looking Norah Jones, here at her best
behaviour as a country singer, far better than her
normal smooth jazz's impersonification. But it is Jim
the real hero of this collection of 10 originals
matched by 3 cover versions (Don Gibson's "Sweet
dreams", sung by Norah Jones, "Milton Ager's " Ain't
she sweet" and McCartney's own "Michelle"). And just
in case you don't get the point of this great unsung
hero of the Telecaster there's a title which sums the
man's own talent and underlines the dry sarcasm which
makes Jim even greater:" Roy Buchanan's cousin".
- Ernesto de Pascale
Cafe Guide, April 2003
"This is music goes deep and manages to be as entertaining as a Henry Fonda movie."
The New Yorker, September 2003
The guitarist Jim Campilongo swims moodily through jazz, country, and blues like a back-room Bill Frisell. His Electric Trio plays calm but charged sets.
The Village Voice, NYC, January 2003
"A smoke-filled room, the slow pulse of
a strobe light, a beautiful woman with hands around
your waist, the thump of the bass, the swirl of a
wurlitzer, and a one-armed man and a cross-eyed lady (
holding a sacrificed chicken and a string of garlic
cloves ) dance cheek to cheek besides you. You feel
good but wonder if your drink is drugged. And all the
while the eclectic nimble six-string "cowboy jazzman"
Campilongo sonically serenades you deep into the
Guitar Player Magazine, January 2003
"Nobody weaves together Jazz, Blues, and
Country with the silky finesse of Jim Campilongo ...
bends emanate from his weathered Deluxe Reverb
like ghostly wails from a haunted castle.There are
spirits in those licks."
- Jude Gold
The Village Voice, NYC, December 2002
"...the guitarist's music is long on improvisation,
but even longer on melody - that means where he leads,
"No Depression" - Live show review
Jim Campilongo Band
Knitting Factory (New York, NY)
September 10, 2001
The next day the world would change forever, but on this Monday night San Franciscan Jim Campilongo's brand of Jimmy Bryant meets Thelonious Monk music had its New York debut in the subterranean Old Office room of Manhattan's Knitting Factory. Little known outside the Bay Area, Compilongo brought his quartet east in an attempt to expand on his local legend status. For twelve years while living in San Francisco, I had watched a fine rock guitarist with a personal voice immerse himself in the twang lexicon to become a tasteful and technically adept country picker, then devote his energies exclusively to his own music, emerging as a unique player and a composer of the first order. The particular blend of Bakersfield honky-tonk, Western Swing and modern improvisation that he developed is sui generis. Imagine Bill Frisell ala Nashville, with bursts of Danny Gatton level chops and intensity, and you begin to get the picture. (Just for the record, his forays into this field far predate Frisell's).
A nervous Campilongo began the evening with a Chet Atkins cover he calls "Chet's Tune". In a comment typical of his penchant for following his own path he wryly put it, "I got it off an unmarked tape; when someone finally told me what it was really called I liked Chet's Tune better." Fortunately, nerves were quickly overcome when pedal-steel guitarist David Phillips tore off an imaginative solo, bringing a smile to Jim's face, and reved up confidence to the rest of the show. Phillips is a perfect foil for Campilongo. A fine country player, contributor to the Bay Area improvised music scene, and occasional Tom Waits sideman, he initially took up the instrument because he "thought it would sound good on King Crimson tunes". A resume like this implies that he is well suited to this genre bending music, and his offbeat note choices and tones over the evening confirmed it.
Campilongo's memorable instrumentals are refreshingly devoid of irony but often laced with wit, as evidenced in titles like "Bought Some Swampland In Florida" and "Cat Under a Car". In the band's early days the material leaned toward the frenetic and angular. On this night, whether as a nod to the smallish size of the room, or as a sign of musical maturing, tunes like "D'Boat" and "Table For One" helped keep the mood more contemplative, emphasizing instead Jim's magnificent manipulation of his Telecaster's tonal potential, and the textural possibilities inherent in a combination of guitar, pedal steel, upright bass, drums. Guest Rob Burger's accordion added echoes of Astor Piazzola and Clifton Chenier for additional color. Only on the venerable war-horse Folsom Prison Blues did the band burn with a white heat as opposed to the blue flame over which the majority of the set simmered. On the Johnny Cash standard Campilongo and Phillips traded solos and fours, with the rhythm section egging them on until they had wrung everything conceivable out of their instruments.
The Knitting Factory is known for presenting edgy, arty, avant music that defies genre. Jim Campilongo's art is firmly rooted in tradition but derives its edge from its sheer, uncompromising Personality, with a capital "P". It doesn't try to be dissonant, though it sometimes is. It doesn't try to be ironic or clever. In fact, it doesn't try to be anything except passionate and moving, at which it admirably succeeds.
In the introduction to his book, Photography Rediscovered, David Travis writes, "Great artists are not remarkable for being the best example of a type, but for being the only example." Jim Campilongo's band is definitely the only example of its type, and on this occasion left an audience in awe of what human beings are capable of at their best. We would have to wait until the following morning to experience what human beings are capable of at their worst.
SF Examiner, Feb 2000
The opening strains of the newest work by The City's own guitar god are only faintly heard in the background: what sounds like the ominous opening of Jethro Tull's "Aqualung." But it's only a momentary flash -- an omen, if you will -- before Campilongo plunges headlong into his most satisfying, and yes, heaviest, album yet.
The hard-working picker, who has made a home of the club-within-a-club
upstairs at the Paradise, has made another album of dazzling Western
swing-meets-jazz-meets blues-meets-country, which has become his
patented trademark. I love the Spaghetti Western flavor of "Sergio
vs. the Moth," the sweet melancholy of "Tiramisu" and the honky-tonk
of "Tic Toc," which makes you want to put on your cowboy boots
and line dance. Campilongo stretched a bit on this one, and came
up with a winner.
-- Jane Ganahl
"Somewhere between modern blues of the late Danny Gatton, the out-there jazz of John McLaughlin, and the western swing jangle and twang of Jimmy Bryant, Campilongo's guitar work is precise and studied, but always stoked with something intangible and deeper."
"The band's first two records, an eponymous 1996 album and 1997's Loose, were the sound of Campilongo maturing from a fine country-inflected jazz guitarist into a songwriter; there are moments on Loose, like "Above Paradise" or "The Girl With Red Eyes," that are almost Ellington-esque in terms of musicianship, color, and mood. 1998's Table for One finished the job."
" For the new 10 Gallon Cats record, Heavy -- officially out on the 24th at a release party at the Paradise -- Campilongo's struck a deal between his country-jazz background and his strengths as a composer. Bounding from mournful ballads like "Tiramisu" and "Like Butter" to off-kilter swing tracks like "Mozart Woulda Played a Tele" to the Morricone-styled "Dagger Through My Heart" and the trucker rock of "Tic Toc," it's Campilongo's most inventive and complex album, as well as his most playful."
- Mark Athitakis
Guitar Player Magazine, June 2000
One of San Francisco's best-kept secrets, Telecaster-wielding Jim Campilongo possesses a wacky sense of humor, lunatic technique, and a fat, snarling tone. Until now Campilongo has displayed two sides: With his band, the 10 Gallon Cats, he recorded two albums of what could be best described as demented hillbilly instrumentals. And on his solo CD, the moody Table for One, he sounded as if he was scoring a film about love gone wrong. On Heavy [Blue Hen Records], however, his two muses merge in a swirling melange of twisted Western swing, skewed Bakersfield twang, ominous surf, and over-the-limit, hot-rod jazz. Backed by the 10 Gallon Cats (which features monster pedal steeler Joe Goldmark), Campilongo weaves snappy lines and tremolo-drenched voicings in a moving homage to Ennio Morricone, Link Wray, and Hank Marvin. Imagine Jimmy Bryant's hair-trigger reflexes hitched to Roy Buchanan's restless spirit. Better yet, pick up Heavy and dig just how much sound one guy can coax out of six strings and an amp.
San Francisco Bay Guardian, March 2000
Guitarist Jim Campilongo shows off his songwriting chops in addition to his jaw-dropping technical ability on his latest album. "Pat and Patsy" hints at the playful tone that dominates Heavy, sampling a toy Microjammer Country Pickin' Geetar lick before diving headlong into a barn burner featuring fiery interplay between Campilongo and pedal steel virtuoso Joe Goldmark. As spectacular as the duo's fretwork might be, the intelligence and economy of their playing is even more impressive. "Sergio Versus the Moth" finds Leone's classic theme to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly butting up against "Flight of the Bumblebee" in a creatively comical jaunt that takes as many twisting, stylistic turns as one of John Zorn and Naked City's Mancini deconstructions. Campilongo tempers the humor by mixing in a number of less whimsical tunes, wringing out some of his heaviest, most emotive playing on the CD over a thick foundation laid by bassist Chris Kee and drummer Ken Owen.
Heavy is the new collection of instrumentals from San Francisco
guitarist Jim Campilongo and his band of swinging cowboys, The
10 Gallon Cats. As on Campilongo's first self-titled CD (1996)
as well as Loose (1997), his duets with pedal steel guitarist
Joe Goldmark are at the center of the music. Campilongo and Goldmark
have brought new life to the jazzy country instrumental, a style
that was pioneered by teams like Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West
in the 1950s and James Burton and Ralph Mooney in the early 1960s.
Unlike their predecessors, who tended to ignore rock 'n' roll,
Campilongo and Goldmark gleefully add a liberal dose of the stuff
to the venerable jazz and country mix. Tracks like "Dagger through
My Heart," which features Dave Boat rapping in Italian, and "Sergio
Versus the Moth," with its mix of Ennio Morricone-inflected guitar
tones and Japanese monster noises, take country guitar to strange
new places. But when Campilongo and Goldmark get down to twanging,
as they do on the western swing-flavored "Mozart Woulda Played
a Tele," the sweet and slow "Tiramisu," or the country stomp of
Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," you know that, no matter
how far-out the music gets, their hearts secretly beat to a honky-tonk
-Michael Simmons, TipWorld Country Music Columnist
Billboard Magazine - Spotlight Review, 6/13/98
"... A bridge between the big sky and the big city, "Table For One" is Americana at its most touching"
Billboard Magazine - Jazz Sounds are on the upbeat in the Bay Area
"... A walking encyclopedia of the guitar ... Campilongo writes evocative original material along with reinventing such smoky favorites as 'Harlem Nocturne'"
Nov '98 - Spotlight: "FInding the Perfect Wrong Note"
"Campilongo's guitar playing is a thrilling tightrope walk between technical precision and spontaneous emotion"
- Joe Gore
July '98 - Review of "Table For One"
"Campilongo has created a collection of alternately
moody and catchy instrumentals showcasing his darkly
romantic melodicism and absolutely pristine tone ...
Campilongo tips his hat now and then in the direction
of Roy Buchanan, which is fine. Coming from Campilongo,
it's a heartfelt tribute, not a forgery."
- Adam Levy
July '97 - Review of "Loose"
"Campilongo's death-defying 6-string antics bring a Joe Maphis-on-acid twist to alternative country ... blistering Tele licks, woozy breakdowns, and eerie B-movie textures attain critical mass in these cowboy-jazz instrumentals. Jim's dizzying solos and are delightfully unpredictable, and the stratospheric interplay between him and pedal steeler Joe Goldmark is a sound not soon forgotten. Got the deja vu country blues? The Cats will cure 'em pronto."
Music Millennium - February 1999
"At the top of my 'Top Ten Records' for 1998 is Jim Campilongo's
latest release, 'Table For One.' The bell-like fender Telecaster
match up with a Fender amp is incredibly expressive in Campilongo's
hands. In a recent conversation with the guitarist, he said that
this was the kind of record he would like to put on while having
his morning coffee. I would elect to have a second cup and sit,
listen and savor this wonderful record."
- Allen Jones
4 STARS "... Masters of slick-as-a-card-trick exchanges
and somber lyricism, these guys neatly sidestep the pitfalls that
entrap many nonjazz intrumentalists. Campilongo's originals possess
strong themes and aviod homogeneity. There's no wasted space in
these tunes ... And what solos! Campilongo - the guitarist in
the NHT room at Stereophile's Hi-Fi '97 - is a strenuously progressive
improviser whose sonically adventuous playing is informed by jazz,
blues, and experimental sensibilities ... Campilongo and the Cats
may have one foot firmly planted in the past, but with 'Loose'
they've taken one more powerful stride forward."
- Steve Stolder
(For the complete review see Oct '97 Sterophile, Page 265. )
Review of "Jim Campilongo and the 10 Gallon Cats"
"San Francisco picker Jim Campilongo is reviving the spirit of classic
country-jazz, albeit with a delightfully skewed '90's approach . . . Campilongo possesses slick flatpicking chops and a great Tele tone . . . No question this disc is a must for Teleheads and starving country-jazzers alike".
"LOOSE features 11 exceptionally eclectic tunes (nine
of which were written by Jim C.) and a whole lot of sonic variety
... on behalf of all eclectic instrumental music fans, I'd like
to personally thank Jim, Joe and the great rhythm section of Chris
Kee (bass) and Ken Owen (drums) for their wonderfully eclectic
tastes and continuing to make quality music in one of today's
most (unfortunately) commercially underappreciated genres."
- Jim Hilmar
SF Bay Guardian - Feb '96 - Review of "Loose" in Arts & Entertainment
"On this superb debut, the Bay Area's Jim Campilongo
... provides enough
playfulness for the scenemakers, guitar pyrotechnics for the six-string idolaters,
and sheer musical bite and delight for everyone else."
- Derek Richardson
"Over the past few years, self-effacing picker Jim Campilongo and his pedal steel foil have worked their way to the head of the (instrumental guitar music ) class by updating and personalizing the country and western swing legacies of such rock-eclipsed masters as Jimmy Bryant, Speedy West, Eldon Shamblin, Leon McCauliffe, Tom Brumley, Don Rich, and Lloyd Green ... "
August '98 - Review of "Table for One" in Arts & Entertainment
"Campilongo redefines country as the landscape of his own soul ... In brief, it's the the sort of Americana guitar jazz that will sound familiar to fans of Bill Frisell, supremely lyrical and slightly bent but without Frisellian forays into feedback and noise. 'Table for One' is, more importantly, a deeply felt expression of Campilongo's innermost muse ... And by the ending with a reflective reading of 'This Old Man' accented by acoustic bass, brushes, and wistful accordion, Campilongo shows that his concept of roots music has more to do with sentiment than geography".
San Francisco Chronicle
"LOOSE" ... combines the band's typical wackiness with a new, haunting depth ... a dizzy mix of roadhouse swing, eerie ballads, and hillbilly rock ... an exhiliarating range of musical dispositions, from festive to penetrating, and is perfect for any turntable in any mood.
- Dave Ford
San Francisco Examiner
"CATCH 'EM WHILE YOU CAN"
"JIM CAMPILONGO, a guitarist so extraordinary that music magazines beg for transcriptions of his cowboy-jazz riffs ..."
- Jane Ganahl
"Campilongo's western swing orientation is a launching pad for some of the city's most adventurous musicianship. . . Campilongo channels the versatility of Chet Atkins and the tone and volume of hotshot blues player Roy Buchanan into guitar
lines that speak".
San Francisco Magazine - March 1999
"California became a locale favored by mavericks, by outlaws,
perhaps by romantics. Campilongo is all three -- no doubt about
it. With every quirky note dancing off his fingers, you hear echoes
of the musicians who defined Country music before marketing departments
said 'Make it nice.' Campilongo is a man of many moods, a guitarist
who can express them all."
BAM Magazine - Live Review - 4/5/96
"Campilongo, this dude is a gunslinger. Wrenching his Tele,
scratching out Hank Garland and Speedy West licks with total ease
and beauty, ripping out a version of "Harlem Nocturne"
(with the late Danny Gatton looking down and smiling, no
doubt) and rolling out every Roy Nichols/Don Rich/Grady Martin
lick ever recorded. I was totally won over! I didn't pick up my
own guitar for a week . . . A primer for those who've burned out
on the limited repertoires of country rockers, this is a bit of
homemade arcana that will dazzle your socks off".
- Johnny Angel
Axe Magazine (Italy) cover story - January 98
|"Jim Campilongo, now on his third album, is one of the treasures of American music, in terms of the guitar...Table for One is his most mature and refined album - an entirely instrumental work, of a mostly 'after hours' tone and mood..."|
Citysearch.com (Austin)Band to Watch - March 98
" 'Loose' is filled with well-crafted songs, psychedelic guitar work, and complex harmonies. "
Country Standard Time Magazine
"Campilongo has certainly done his homework ... 'Loose'
richly deserves a place up there with the work of the Hellecasters
in the pantheon of hot country guitar records of the '90's. "
- Jon Johnson
"The San Francisco-based Campilongo's third album could just
as easily be titled, "Jim Campilongo, the Moonlight, and You."
And a more radical departure from his first two albums would,
in fact, be difficult to picture. The new album is, more than
anything else, reminiscent of west coast jazz records of the Kennedy
years. Campilongo's guitar work, while still exhibiting flashes
of its characteristic dissonance, is distinctly more subdued here;
. . . Make no mistake: this is a very good album - and a brave
- Jon Johnson
Gavin Report (America's most Trusted Name in Radio)
May 16, '97 - 'Loose' named "Record to Watch" and "Chartbound"
"... I can't say enough good things about San Francisco's own Jim Campilongo and Joe Goldmark ... (Loose is) not only a record to watch, but one to play and play again. Campilongo and company set their strings afire on tune after tune. Loosen up and get on this one."
- Americana Columnist Rob Bleetstein
Hi-Fi Reviews - July 98
"[Campilongo] has chops galore and ideas to match. He
attacks swing licks with a down-home raunch and sense of humor
www.bigzines.com - Jan '97
"The CATs' first CD knocked off our proverbial socks, and we're real hot on their brand new release, "Loose" (Blue Hen Records). Imagine Western Swing with a hint of sassy jazz, an updated 90s feel,and you'll be on the right track for this talented group."