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A tornado of talent hits Lancaster

John Freeman
Phil Campbell, a Scottish singer-songwriter who's had a truly whirlwind career, plays at the Gregson Centre on Saturday 25th February.

One of Britain’s most talented songwriters, Phil Campbell has shared a producer with Ryan Adams and Rufus Wainwright, toured with David Gray, and appeared several times on Later with Jools Holland.

Raised on a diet of Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Elliott Smith, Neil Young, and the Rolling Stones, Campbell burst onto the Glaswegian scene in the mid-1990s after signing a development deal with WEA at the age of 18. Two years later he signed to EMI and released his debut, Fresh New Life. A series of stops and starts followed and found the young artist enduring the roller coaster ride that is substance abuse, but in its wake he managed to build an arsenal of material that would eventually appear on 2007's Joy and 2008's After The Garden

Perhaps his most unusual performance, though, was in a town with the same name as him last year. In April the town of Phil Campbell, Alabama, was devastated by a tornado. Phil, along with many other namesakes from around the world, travelled out there as part of the recovery effort, not only playing benefit gigs, but also picking up a shovel to help with the clear-up. 

For singer Phil this trip meant more than just the name - his own home in London was wrecked by a freak tornado in 2006, so he had some idea of how it felt in Alabama. 

He told BBC Scotland he decided to head to Alabama after reading a news website story about other Phils, Phillipas, Philomenas and Felipes travelling to America to assist residents in the town with repair work.

They had all been converging for an event to mark the town's 100th anniversary but decided to turn the party into a salvage operation after the tornado left 25 people dead, destroyed buildings and left hundreds homeless.

The 36-year-old musician said: "It was all just too weird and too much of a coincidence.

"I had heard about the town before, and had heard about Phil Campbells meeting up there but I had always just ignored it really.

"But when I heard about the tornado I felt I really had to go out there."

His show at the Gregson on February 25th - a warm up for major gigs in London and Glasgow - may not be quite that dramatic, but with his phenomenal, bluesy voice and captivating stage presence, this rare solo performance in a small venue is sure to whip up a storm.

"Poised for success," noted the Sunday Times, "and all set to cosy up against the works of David Gray, Damien Rice and Ray Lamontagne on the shelves of those who have fallen in love with the recent return to proper songs, sung properly, by proper songwriters."

Phil Campbell on

Phil Campbell's music on iTunes

BBC Scotland: Phil Campbell joins tornado town rebuild