Since alternative/No Depression country music is hot right now, I guess the publicity department at Chet Delcampo’s label couldn’t help putting the words, “albeit with an understated twang” when describing his new CD, The Fountain. There’s no need. Delcampo, a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter who is both smart enough and control freakish enough to produce his own music, is like a hazy/dreamy Lindsey Buckingham who does not mind acoustic guitars and the occasional brushstroke of lap steel. Delcampo’s music is sweet, soft, catchy, romantic and sophisticated. It’s no accident that he names Brian Wilson and Elliot Smith as influences. I’d bet he loves Burt Bacharach too. The only problem I had with The Fountain was it’s length—a mere 34 minutes and 34 seconds. Just another reminder of the ‘70s, singer-songwriter AM pop the CD will remind you of two songs in.
Delcampo uses soft, hushed vocals on the opening track, “Pine Trees,” a shuffling melodic ballad that Dionne Warwick could have collaborated on with The Band. But Delcampo ups the vocal ante when he starts wailing like Paul Westerberg on “A Chance of Use” and the rest of the album. For anyone who remembers former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Buckingham’s 1981 solo hit “Trouble,” they are going to love “Coffee with Tom T. Hall.” The drums are as precise as a drum machine, the chiming guitars ring out pretty and Byrdsy and Delcampo’s piano solo is gorgeous. “Argentina” sounds like Brilliant Trees-era David Sylvian with one-note piano hitting ala Brian Wilson, Bacharach chord changes, and jazzy instrumental atmosphere. “So High, So Cold” begins like a U2 epic and ends like the mini-opera epic it is: choirs and poppy, grand string-drenched beauty.
In the The Fountain‘s coda, “To Sleep,” Delcampo sings, “If I could get to sleep tonight / Without her picture haunting my dreams.” Delcampo is sad as is the music but the Miles Davis-like trumpet solo of Kimball Brown sounds like an angel trying to lead Delcampo to the fields of slumber. The Fountain is a musical reflection of it’s cover art—a couple standing in the corner staring at dark, tall trees with branches that are missing their leaves. It’s winter and the couple is so far away from the trees, it’s separation and loneliness. But there is another pieces of salvation in the art. Three shots of a fountain overflowing with water. Delcampo’s the water and hope, his songwriting the sorrow and his music the fountain.