Bill Maier & The Campfire All Stars – Self-Titled

by Janet Goodman

bill-maier_campfire-all-stars_self-titled“Twenty years after our last record, and almost ten years since I moved south, this project was a long overdue excuse to spend some time with ya’ll. (And eat some real pizza),” writes Nashville singer/songwriter Bill Maier, addressing his bandmates in the liner notes of their new album, “Bill Maier & The Campfire All Stars.” Produced by Maier and the band, these 13 tracks (8 self-penned, 5 co-written) were recorded during the summer of 2014, mostly in the exact Roslyn Heights, NY studio where, many years earlier, they recorded their first project.

Returning to his Long Island hometown plus reuniting with his old band equals music magic for Maier, whose boyish joy can be heard throughout this little gem of a southern rock recording. It opens with back-to-back nods to those glory days (“Stompin,” “In The Front Door”), where rootsy electric slide and smoking lead guitar by bandmate Joe Leonard help paint a youthful soundscape. Catchy, classic-Maier love song “Let Me Know,” mandolin-wistful “Stoned” and The Mavericks-inspired “Break My Heart” are rich in melodic hooks.

Maier could be described as a songwriter’s songwriter, and there’s nary a song here not worth a generous listen. “Hate My Life” is surprisingly a love song replete with peeves (yet somehow chokes me up), and in wild romp “Cold Day In Memphis” (co-written by Renee Wahl), he clears up any confusion as to the direction they’re traveling: “Jimmy Swaggart on the radio/Telling us where to go/We went the other way.”

Showing solid, story-telling chops as well as tender artistry on stand-out “Anywhere,” Maier delivers arguably his best emotional performance on the so pretty “The Sound of Goodbye” (another Maier/Wahl collaboration), where he sadly realizes, “That empty promise in your kiss/Those words that never leave your lips/There’s nothing left to say or do but cry…” Dynamic playing is everywhere; even the lush, 2-1/4 minute south-of-the-border outro on final track “Don’t Give Up On Me Yet” needs to be recognized for its tight musicianship. Looks like after all these years, Maier and his band still have the knack for making unbridled-rock- ‘n’- roll kind of fun.

Visit the artist’s website www.tengallonfat.com

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