Thursday, 29 October 2009

Ray Campi v Jimmie Skinner

I was listening to Jimmie Skinner late last night and when I heard How Low Can You Feel I thought of Ray Campi. The rockabilly bass man is a massive fan of Skinner and his much had a profound effect on him. It was actually via Ray Campi that I got into Jimmie Skinner. My introduction to Campi was courtesy of his wonderful stage act on the Blue Suede Shoes video of many moons ago.

Ray Campi told Now Dig This once that “I must have recorded more Jimmie Skinner tunes than anyone except Jimmie himself.” The ones I know him doing are Doin' My Time, Don't Give Your Heart to a Rambler, Baby You Don't Know My Mind and How Low Can You Feel but I’m sure there’s probably others.

There career’s and styles were completely different but nowadays I can’t think of one without the other. In my job we deal with ramblers and every time someone mentions ramblers I always hum in my head “keep it away from rambling’ Ray”. It’s weird what goes on in your head, unless it’s just me and my buddy in there.

A man of many trades within the industry, Jimmie Skinner tried his hand as a DJ, songwriter, performer, label owner, and record salesman. His first successful composition was Doin My Time in 1941 but he had to wait until 1957 before he had a hit record himself. On Mercury Records he scored with I Found My Girl in the U.S.A. and Dark Hollow, but he never managed to repeat the trick. He tried his luck with loads of labels before his death in 1979.

Everyone reading this page will know the story of Ray Campi. Basically he had a couple of no-hit singles in the 50’s the best known being Caterpillar (I’ll be honest here and say I don’t think much of his early work) before being a key figure in the rockabilly revival of the 70’s, thanks to his sterling work for Ronnie Weiser’s great Rollin’ Rock label.

My favourite songs of the ones both Campi and Skinner recorded are Don't Give Your Heart To A Rambler and How Low Can You Feel. On Rambler I prefer the Skinner original, it’s so well sung and the music has a haunting sound that is perfect. Ray does a fine cover and I love his oh-so country voice and the final flourish “keep it away from rambling’ Ray”.

How Low Can You Feel is another matter. Ray Campi’s version is brilliant and blows Jimmie’s outta the water. The bass sound is so rounded and I love the acoustic rockabilly treatment. The addition of the “thump thump thump” is inspired. Jimmie Skinner’s is a lovely rendition, but it doesn’t have the thump thump thump factor.

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