Review: Ashley Campbell & Thor Jensen, Maindee Library, Newport

Andy Howells visits Maindee Library to witness a unique evening of music from American singer/songwriters Ashley Campbell & Thor Jensen.

“This is a nice intimate place and I love books!” said Nashville singer/songwriter Ashley Campbell who, along with music collaborator Thor Jensen, played to an audience packed to the bookshelves in Maindee Library on Saturday evening.  Performing on a glittery stage situated to the rear of the library, this intimate venue undoubtedly must be one of Newport’s best kept secrets. However, plenty of people got in on the secret to witness Thor and Ashley’s show to give the event a strong attendance.

Ashley and Thor have only been performing together for a short time and both are well known individually. While virtuoso guitarist and songwriter Thor has toured the world with Hazmat Modine, Ashley has toured with her father, the late Glen Campbell and in recent years forged herself a successful career as a solo country artist.

Ashley Campbell & Thor Jensen united for a special show at Maindee Library, Newport on October 8.

The Campbell-Jensen collaboration combines intricate guitar playing with country, blues, and gypsy jazz. An impressive array of material was performed over an hour and a half including original compositions such as La Bete, Its Hard Not to Smile and Waiting for The Summertime. What I like about Thor and Ashley’s material is how in-tune they are with each other musically. It’s hard to believe they only got together less than a year ago, as they harmonise and perform with an ease that takes some artists years to master.

Anyone who saw Ashley perform on her fathers’ tours will no doubt remember her accomplished banjo playing. This was featured prominently on several numbers including I Wanna Run with You and a cover of Gentle on My Mind, stirring up memories of the Glen Campbell and Bobbie Gentry duet, but with a fresh vibrant Campbell-Jensen twist.

Ashley Campbell & Thor Jensen.

Other treats included original instrumentals from The Ambition Series which showcased intricate guitar playing from Thor and Ashley. There were also memorable cover renditions of Hank Williams Cold, Cold Heart, Tom Waites’ Long Way Home and Dolly Parton’s Do I Ever Cross Your Mind, a song that featured Thor’s pumping guitar matched with Ashley’s beautiful vocalisations.

The evening was rounded off with an acoustic rendition of The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby leaving the audience delighted and hungry for more. Thankfully an album is on the horizon from this magical music partnership, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we see Thor and Ashley in Wales again.

Kudos to Ashley, Thor and the Maindee Library team for making this memorable evening happen. Inventive, collaborative and intricate, this was one of the best live music events I’ve witnessed in a very long time!

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