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Pop reviews — week of Aug. 18

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See You There

Glen Campbell

Too often when veteran artists revisit career-defining hits late in life it’s more of a marketing move than an artistic exploration. Not in this case.

Since revealing two years ago that he has Alzheimer’s disease, the singer-guitarist and former TV show host released his well-received Ghost on the Canvas album and went on the road for a farewell tour.

These tracks, in which he takes another look at hits such as Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix and Gentle on My Mind, were recorded while he was working on the Ghost album, and the vocals have been given raw, rootsy musical accompaniment by producers Dave Darling and Dave Kaplan.

Knowing what Campbell is going through only heightens the emotional impact of the songs. “It’s knowing I’m not shackled by forgotten words and bonds,” resonates powerfully as he sings that line in John Hartford’s Gentle on My Mind. And Jimmy Webb’s lyric in Phoenix about a departing lover — “She’ll laugh when she reads the part that says I’m leaving” — takes on a whole new meaning.

There’s little studio sweetening applied to Campbell’s boy-next-door voice, a smart move that gives his age and condition the honest respect he’s earned in what’s been a difficult but brave fight.

— Randy Lewis

Los Angeles Times

Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation

Robert Wilson

Civil War photographer Mathew Brady largely taught himself the finer points of the two pursuits that have linked his name to history: taking pictures and self-promotion.

Little is recorded about Brady’s early life, a challenge for biographer Robert Wilson. Yet readers of Mathew Brady: Portraits of a Nation probably benefit, as Wilson moves quickly to what matters most — Brady’s role in how we see America in the mid- to late 19th century.

As a teenager, he left the countryside for the big city around 1840. The early photographic process called daguerreotype, invented in Paris, arrived in New York just ahead of him. He may have taken lessons in the technique while supporting himself as a clerk.

In 1844, Brady opened a portrait studio, and after five years of success, he started one in Washington. Wilson makes a compelling case that Brady eventually rose above a sea of photographic entrepreneurs because he learned, and often advanced, the latest techniques. And he had a pleasing manner that put subjects at ease during the time-consuming process of getting a picture taken.

Brady also understood how publicity worked. The Hall of Fame in his Broadway studio featured a gallery of celebrities, including Gen. Winfield Scott, John James Audubon and Dolley Madison. In 1849, President James K. Polk allowed Brady to take his photograph in the White House, as did Zachary Taylor.

A decade later, Brady was at the “height of his fame as a photographer of celebrities.” His 1860 photograph of a beardless Abraham Lincoln helped to make the presidential aspirant known around the country.

The Civil War created a strong demand for photographs of soldiers in studio settings and in encampments. The custom of the time was for the studio’s owner to take the credit, not those working in the studio or in the field. While Brady shared credit with his photographers some of the time and traveled to battlefields such as Gettysburg, his name is associated with many photographs he didn’t take.

At Bull Run he lost his equipment in the chaotic retreat, which may have cooled his eagerness to ask those working for him to photograph close to actual fighting. Images of dead soldiers, slain horses and other post-battle carnage brought to the public a face of war most had never seen.

Wilson argues that Brady’s role in promoting wartime images through his studios and the print media was crucial to their impact even if he wasn’t the man behind the camera.

— Douglass K. Daniel

Associated Press

Rhythm & Blues

Buddy Guy

On I Go By Feel, Buddy Guy uses the title phrase to explain, among other things, his approach to playing the blues. But even the greats, like Guy, can use help in melding inspiration with craft and enhancing the artist’s gifts. And Guy gets that from producer-drummer-writer Tom Hambridge.

The result is a focused, hard-hitting two-CD set of 21 tracks that clocks in at just over 80 minutes total. The 77-year-old Guy gets plenty of chances to flash his prodigious guitar chops, but he does so in the context of taut, well-structured songs that don’t stint on feel as they range from driving straight blues to swaggering roadhouse R&B and ballads brooding and soul-tinged.

Guests are on hand, including Kid Rock, Keith Urban, and Steven Tyler, but they just complement the main attraction, whom Hambridge supplies with songs that at times resonate with references to the singer’s own life. And with Meet Me in Chicago, there is also a welcome alternative to the well-worn Windy City anthem Sweet Home Chicago.

— Nick Cristiano

Philadelphia Inquirer

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