NASHVILLE, Tennessee- Since the neo-traditional country artist, Craig Campbell launched his Grindstone Recordings label in 2020, he has released music and banking even more cuts over the last few years. Answering the call of his fans, he released The Lost Files: Exhibit A album on February 17.
He stated, “We had a hard time finding some of these songs because the hard drives got misplaced. Then with some, you had the hard drive, but they wouldn’t open. They were literally lost files.”
The album cover is a hodgepodge of clips of news stories from when Campbell first started in the music business until now. It’s like a board of unsolved mysteries.
Before the record release, Campbell hosted a listening party at Grindstone Cowboy, a popular restaurant and coffee shop that he and his wife Mindy opened in their adopted hometown of Eagleville, Tennessee. He shared with a packed house of songwriters, journalists, and music industry folks the story behind each song before playing the recorded version. I was privileged to attend and was blown away.
The 16 songs are a compilation of recent recordings and “lost” songs he recorded for previous labels but were never released. Campbell had a hand in writing 11 of the tracks with some of the top songwriters in music. The other five were contributed by Jess Brown, Joel Little Phillip Coleman, Nicolle Galyon, Ella Yelich-O’Connor, Jamie Paulin, Liz Rose, Michael White, and Justin Wilson. In addition to Campbell, producers on various tracks include Cooper Bascom, Blake Bollinger, Mickie Jack Cones, Rob Hatch, Elisha Hoffman, Phil O’Donnell, Matt Rovey, Keith Stegall, and Ilya Toshinskiy.
The first single that was released off the record was “Tractor Songs,” which was written by his good buddy, Walker Hayes, who attended the album release party in Eagleville.
Campbell said of the song, “Sometimes you hear songs on the radio and say ‘Man! That’s a hit! I wish I could cut that before they did.’” He added. “All I can say is I’m glad I cut this before anyone else. Shoutout to Walker for sending this song to me first.”
The first song on the album, “Lot to Live Up To,” was written ten years ago. He mentions Travis Tritt in the song and was fortunate enough to have him sing on the cut. Campbell creates the southern rock sound that you would expect from Travis Tritt with the lead tune.
“It’s the perfect song to kick off the record,” he said.
The second song on the album, “Winnebago,” was tracked the same day as “Outskirts of Heaven.”
But when they released, his smash hit “Outskirts of Heaven” in 2018, “Winnebago” wasn’t picked up initially. However, the song has been a fan favorite at Campbell’s live shows and is now finding its rightful place on the record.
Campbell shows his softer side in the cut, “It’s About Time,” and reminds many of us of where we came from with “Sounds Like A Small Town.”
Campbell proves that he remains unashamedly country in his duet with Trea Landon, “Things You Do In A Truck,” but it is his duet with wife Mindy, “Church Clothes,” will hit home with so many couples who are trying to make it work through the tough times.
Written nearly 20 years ago with Thompson Square’s Kiefer Thompson, “Johnny’s Cash” is an upbeat song with a cool hook. It shows a side of Campbell that fans may not be familiar with. It’s a “rags to riches” story song that we often expect coming out of Nashville.
The song “Hurtin’ On It” was written in L.A. His pals told him, “This is cool, we’ve never written a country song.” To which Campbell replied, “If you are writing with me, you are writing a country song.” The song is a favorite of his mothers, and he included it for her.
A song that was written for Broken Bow Records, but he could never get them to bite is, “Night Like Last Time.” They ended up having four producers on the song, but still to no avail. It’s a country song with all the bells and whistles and it’s exactly what you think it should be about. Luckily for us, we get to hear it anyway.
The biggest surprise (to me) on the record is Craig Campbell’s cover of “Royals.” He initially did it for the Bobby Bones Show and I am sure his fans are quite familiar with it. But strangely enough, it works and it’s fascinating to hear his unexpected country take on Lorde’s smash hit.
“Talk Country To Me” is a fun song that highlights the southern phases that country people everywhere will relate to. Other songs that showcase Craig Campbell’s pure country sensibility are “That’s What a Song’ll Do,” and “That’s How We Get Down.”
But the most moving song on the album, “God and The Ground She Walked On,” was not written by Campbell but by Phillip Coleman and Jess Brown. He heard it sung on lower Broadway 15 years ago and wanted to add it to the record he was working on, but the label at that time (Bigger Picture) would not allow it. The song, which reminds Campbell of his upbringing, will be a favorite to country and gospel music lovers alike.
Campbell concludes The Lost File: Exhibit A with the very first cut as a songwriter that he had. The song “All American Comeback Kid,” was initially cut by Garth Brooks. However, Campbell admits he prefers his version of the song and he wanted to share that version with his fans. It is the perfect song to complete the 16-tune record.
It also is an apt moniker for the veteran singer who, after 15 plus years, is an all-American comeback kid himself, now making music with the songs he chooses and produced in the manner he wants them to sound.
He admitted, “My career has been like a roller coaster with super highs and super lows, many times over.”
But now, the genuine country crooner has located a honey hole in his musical journey, and we are fortunate that he is sharing some of his newly released treasure trove of songs with us.
The Lost Files: Exhibit A is available now, and I have already downloaded it. The Lost Files: Exhibit B will be released in a few months, and I am sure it will be gold as well.
You can follow Campbell on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and all streaming platforms.
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Bethany Bowman is a freelance entertainment writer. You can follow her blog, Instagram, and Twitter.