Driving Forward, Looking Back

Nostalgia is the rage in much of popular music today. 1940s Swing is back with a vengeance, 1960s pop icon Burt Bacharach is in vogue, and '70s disco and '80s rock is being given strong radio play. Even Nirvana, the group credited with heralding the grunge movement and defining '90s rock, used in their last recorded concert appearance the haunting and powerful "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" a Huddie Ledbetter song pulled straight from the folk music archives.

Perhaps this emphasis on nostalgia reveals an overall dissatisfaction with the direction much of pop and so-called "alternative" music has gone. The formula for a "popular" song has grown stale and become fashioned to meet criteria of corporate interests and financial profit rather than of musical integrity and authenticity. If finding meaningful music today lies in finding and applying authentic musical resources from the past, then the new album by Australian folksinger/songwriter Peter Campbell could not have arrived at a better time.

Rear-View Mirror is Campbell's new double CD that is truly "retrospective," as the title implies, not only in its stark acoustic-folk style, but also in the rich images of past experience conjured up by the songs. It is a collection of mostly older songs and recordings put together on two CDs, the first of which is a live recording that includes many previously unreleased numbers. The second is a studio collection of some of the best tracks from his first two albums. As the title implies, Rear-View Mirror invites you to keep an eye on what's behind you as you drive forward—not for pure nostalgia's sake, but to find resources that can offer strength and direction for the present journey.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1999
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