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Bill Maier & The Campfire All Stars (2015)

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Release Date: February 4, 2014
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The latest release from Nashville singer/songwriter, Bill Maier (with The Campfire All Stars) is a return to roots tour de force… Twenty years after releasing their first critically acclaimed cd, and 10 years after moving to Nashville to pursue country cuts, Maier returned home to his New York stomping grounds, and gathered his long time bandmates, Joe Leonard, Chris Jordan, Willie Marin, Don Meehan, and Brian Walsh into the same Long Island studio where they had recorded their first album twenty years previously, and the results are impressive.

Wearing their influences on their collective sleeve, you can hear the wide variety of their palette, from the classic rock sounds of The Heartbreakers, Allmans, and Springsteen on songs like Last Song, In The Front Door, and Don’t Give Up On Me Yet, to the country and southern rock influences of The Eagles, The Mavericks, and Skynyrd on Break My Heart and other cuts. Let Me Know, and Girl With A Gun have a more mainstream country edge along the lines of Keith Urban, or Jason Aldean, but Maier and The Campfire All Stars somehow meld all those influences into a sound all their own.

Recorded through a vintage Neve mixing board at Sabella Studios in Roslyn Heights NY, and mixed by Kenny Gioia (Marcy Playground, Leann Womack, Mandy Moore) the cd sounds as good as the songs are strong. From the down home rootsy feel of Stompin that kicks off the album, to the nearly 3-minute instrumental reprise at the end of Don’t Give Up On Me Yet thirteen songs later, Maier & the All Stars never disappoint.

While today this CD might best be categorized as Americana, this record harkens back to the golden age of country rock where acts like The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne ruled the airwaves. Sprinkle in a little more modern edge, and some really great songwriting from Maier and a few of his Nashville co-writers and you’ve got a recipe for success.

Album Review

“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.
- - Music News Nashville