Album Review: B.C. Camplight – Deportation Blues

Quite why B.C. Camplight’s How to Die in the North didn’t capture the attention of the music buying public is something of a puzzle. Luxuriant in its arrangements, with a firm grasp of arrangements that recalled the classic pop of the past yet sounded utterly contemporary, and with distinct whiff of someone who understood and appreciated the greatness of Harry Nilsson, the fact that it wasn’t a commercial breakthrough was baffling, but only heightened anticipation for Brian Christinzio’s next album. A run in with UK Visas and Immigration later and we have Deportation Blues, and finally, B.C. Camplight seems to be starting to receive the attention he has long deserved to.

As Deportation Blues’ title suggests, it’s an album informed by Christinzio’s experiences of falling foul of the British immigration system. Now, you would think that this would not make for a particularly cheery listen, however given that How to Die in the North dealt with addiction, depression and was infused with an all to relatable sense of loss, despite its upbeat arrangements and beautiful melodies, the fact that Deportation Blues isn’t a laugh a minute fun ride is not surprising, especially given what Christinzio’s has gone through / witnessed in recent years.

There’s something refreshingly real and honest in Christinzio’s voice throughout Deportation Blues. Always a compelling vocalist, he seems to incisively cut through to the truth in a way that seems increasingly rare these days. He’s a guy that sings from experience, and as is often the case in life, what we experience is not always that great. In Christinzio’s case, what he went through was particularly unpleasant, yet he’s still able to empathise with those going through the same thing that suffered far worse than he did.

Deportation Blues, as its name suggests, is not a lightweight or disposable album. It is heavy with a sense of yearning, simmering resentment and injustice, and general discomfort about a world that is growing increasingly unfair as the chasm between the haves and the have nots grows ever wider. Sure, there are toe-tapping tunes, and any number of songs where you just have to wonder why B.C. Camplight has had to wait so long for a commercial breakthrough, but lyrically, this is dense and soul-searching stuff, often leading the listener to consider what kind of world they want to live in.

Experiencing what Christinzio went through is understandably going to have an impact on you as an individual, and so Deportation Blues is an album that B.C. Camplight had to make, rather than one that was part of any grand plan. The fact that it is so evocative and listenable and that Christinzio is able to express something so nuanced, yet still be able to wrap it around great tunes, is a testament to his abilities as a musician and his commitment to his craft. Make no mistake, while Deportation Blues may not seem like an entertaining listen on paper, this is one of the finest talents of his generation on top form.

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