Denise Brown of Campbell Brothers performs at the Newport Folk Festival. Wiqan Ang hide caption

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Wiqan Ang

Denise Brown of Campbell Brothers performs at the Newport Folk Festival.

Wiqan Ang

Campbell Brothers: Newport Folk 2009

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If you've never heard of the genre Sacred Steel, the gospel tradition developed in African-American House of God Pentecostal churches in the 1930s, let the Campbell Brothers serve as an introduction. Chuck Campbell plays pedal steel; his brothers Darick and Phil Campbell play lap steel and electric guitar, respectively; and Phil's son Carlton Campbell plays drums. The music they make melds the shuffle and thump of blues with gospel tradition, with the elastic notes played on the brothers' steel guitars echoing the sound of the human voice.

Fittingly for a religious organization that cites passages from Psalms — "Praise him with stringed instruments" and "Let them praise his name in the dance" — the House of God, Keith Dominion church developed a rocking musical language as the backbone of its form of devotion. In the last decade, the tradition has spread beyond the church, as groups like the Campbell Brothers have begun to play for enthusiastic secular audiences. In a history of the genre by Robert L. Stone, Chuck is quoted as saying, "The music transcends the church. People jump just as much outside of the church as they do at church... We're finding that this music celebrates not only the way we look at things spiritually, but the way everyone looks at their inner self."

The Campbell Brothers' catalog includes five albums, the most recent of which is 2005's Can You Feel It? The set features traditional gospel songs, covers and Campbell originals. The brothers play at their father's church in Rush, N.Y., and at blues festivals around the world.

Set List
  • "Don't Let Nobody Turn You Around"
  • "The Judgement"
  • "Change Is Gonna Come"
  • "Morning Train"
  • "I'll Fly Away"
  • "Lord, I Just Want to Thank You"
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