Campbell and Jensen Live. Gypsy jazz and Dolly Parton *****

Ashley Campbell and Thor Jensen. The Star, Guildford , October 2022

Ashley Campbell said “We’re Campbell Jensen” to a packed Star pub in Guildford, making it plain that this is a duo and not one backing the other. This side project with musical partner Thor Jensen is a pure delight. Different from her country fare this association with the gypsy jazz-influenced Americana singer-songwriter brings a new dimension to her work. 

A mixture of gypsy jazz, bluegrass and country filled an enchanting evening. The duo shared vocal duties and Campbell alternated between guitar and banjo. 

For the first couple of numbers if you closed your eyes you could have been in a dingy, smoky Parisian night club of the 20s and 30s. Both artists shine brightly with their instruments, Jensen with his virtuoso gypsy guitar soloing and Campbell supreme on the banjo. One track even had her playing reminiscent of the classic bluegrass Duelling Banjos

In the middle of the set they played a fabulous selection of well selected covers, in what Campbell described as the “Nashville portion of the show” with Careless Weed  by Jimmy Webb, Dolly Parton’s Do I Ever CrossYour MindRoger Miller’s In The Summertime, Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry with beautiful vocal harmonies and Willie Nelson’s Bloody Mary Morning with amazing banjo from Campbell. “It’s nice to be in a country which is banjo friendly. But you have four strings and we have five — the US always tries to be one-up” she joked. 

A superb and technically complex rendition of the Brazilian tune Tico Tico brought the house down. Then a new song from the pair, Exit Zero, of which Jensen said “we wrote this ten days ago and have spent the last nine days learning how to play it”. This was a complex instrumental, showing the dexterity of the pair who were in perfect sync. “That went okay” he chirped afterwards.  

Campbell asked if there were any John Hartford fans in the house to which there was a deafening silence. She said “well you might recognise this one and become John Hartford fans.” The pair then began to play Gentle On My Mind, a song made famous by her father and “one I love to play on the banjo” . Banjo strings featured again as one broke while she was tuning between verses so Jensen played a solo track called Louisiana Fairytale while she changed the string and they then recommenced the song seamlessly with verse two. That’s professionalism for you. 

More gypsy jazz and the pair ended with the original The Waiting On The Summertime and returned for a charming encore of Eleanor Rigby

Campbell Jensen are scheduled to go into the studio in January to record an album of original material. That will be worth checking out. 

Earlier, a beautiful support set was delivered from local Americana singer-songwriter Rebecca Jayne.

This concert was a jasta11 production who arrange lots of great gigs in the Guildford/Alton area of Surrey and Hampshire.

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