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Kate Campbell’s latest album meshes her artistry with the Baptist Hymnal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Did you know that ole Lucifer (aka the devil) is a master fisherman? Or, more correctly, a master fisher of men. So declares folk poet/singer Kate Campbell on her 2001 CD, “Wandering Strange.”

Campbell reaches into her tackle box of metaphors and similes and baits her musical hook with this descriptive verse in the fourth among 11 songs of faith on the Eminent Records release:

“There’s vices and voodoo always enticing you

“From the day that you’re born ’til the day you leave this world

“The devil’s got a line for you for sure and 10,000 lures.”

You may not hear this song crooned before a Sunday morning sermon. But gospel it is, the gospel as told through the words and melodies of the thought-provoking, literate Campbell.

In fact, the entire album — which is her fifth — exudes with the passion of her southern roots. These roots were planted in the fertile soil of her personal faith in Jesus and were watered by the homespun messages of her father, Jim Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., and a former Southern Baptist Convention president.

Later in her life, her faith sustained her through periods of professional ministry — serving as dean of women at California Baptist College; leading the music at a Baptist church; teaching history courses at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.; and finally leading her to pursue the calling in her heart — her music.

Spending her early years on the rich Delta environs of Sledge, Miss., the young Kate began to hear the beat of a different drummer when she sang the popular hymns of faith found in the blue-green covered Baptist Hymnal.

“Growing up in the Baptist church, this was one of the hymns we used to sing,” Campbell said of the third song on the album, “There Is a Fountain.” “In my mind, I always heard it as a rock song.” As an artist, Campbell has used rhythm with a different “beat” to explore real-world faith issues, such as justice, racial equality and respect and appreciation for God and his creation.

Throughout her four previous albums — “Songs from the Levee,” “Moonpie Dreams,” “Visions Of Plenty” and “Rosaryville” — she carefully sprinkled the salt of biblical truth, giving her ever-expanding buying public a taste of the heavenly.

In Wandering Strange, Campbell is more bold in her approach. In one of the four original songs on the album, she and famed Muscle Shoals musician Spooner Oldham team up to write a song that celebrates redemption, “Now Is the Day of Salvation,” declaring:

“Now is the day of salvation

“Now is the time to be set free

“And there is no condemnation

“The moment you believe.”

In addition to the song, There Is a Fountain, Campbell turned through pages of her Baptist Hymnal to find four other hymns which she performs with reverence and beauty on the CD — “Jordan’s Stormy Banks”; “Come Thou Fount”; an alternate version of “I Will Arise And Go To Jesus” titled “The Prodigal”; and “The King’s Business,” which was the service anthem of the Brotherhood and Royal Ambassadors.

But, in the album, Campbell proves she can cry out with the voice of righteous indignation and has the fortitude to deal with the ungodly and unholy.

Like her father, who, in the mid-90s, was among those who called for the public repentance of Southern Baptists for the collective sin of racial prejudice, Campbell blasts the “ignorant hate” that triggered the violent bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., in the early 1960s.

In her song – “Bear It Away” — which she penned with her husband, Ira Campbell, the singer/songwriter bares bruised childhood memories of the bombing and calls on God for healing of our land:

“One deadly blast shattered the peace

“Making for a dark Sunday morning on Sixteenth Street

“Who can explain such ignorant hate

“When the violent bear it away

“Bear it away; bear it away

“Merciful Jesus, lift up our sorrow

“Upon your shoulder and bear it away.”

Campbell concludes the album with “The Last Song” — a melodically haunting, lyrical reflection about Jesus just before his death. It is a fitting end to an album that reminds its listeners that the walk of faith may be difficult and, at times, may lead to death, but there is always a song that can be sung while one is on the journey.
Johnson is a freelance journalist and professional songwriter who lives in Nashville. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: KATE CAMPBELL.

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  • Daniel L. Johnson