When it comes to mainstream country, I do an awful lot of criticism. Most of it is warranted, especially when an artist goes outside the genre’s actual roots and passes it off as something it isn’t. I don’t enjoy doing negative reviews or making negative comments, but they are necessary and essential. I especially don’t enjoy criticizing artists who I feel have the potential to make great music, but have been churning out music that just doesn’t show their full potential. Basically I criticize because I care and want to see them do better. That’s been the case with me for artist Craig Campbell. It’s always been clear he wants to be a country artist who wants to make country music. I’ve wanted to like him. He’s got the voice, the intention and has a serious approach I find lacking in several mainstream artists. Well I can finally say Campbell has released that song I’ve been waiting on from him in the form of his new single released via Red Bow Records, “Outskirts of Heaven.”
What immediately gets my attention on “Outskirts of Heaven” is the pedal steel guitar. When I hear pedal steel I know I’m hearing a song that wants to be country and this song is certainly country. It has that feel good melody that you were used to hearing when you turned on country radio in the 90s. The song itself is about a man reflecting on the lessons and values he learned from grandfather, from fishing to the Bible. Most importantly he taught him about life after death and going to heaven above. The man hopes when he gets to heaven that he can live in the outskirts of heaven where there’s plenty of trees and open roads where he can live the life he loves. The song goes on to describe with vivid imagery of this man’s idea of heaven. What’s great about the lyrics, which were written by Campbell and Dave Turnbull, is it takes time to establish an emotional connection to the song for the listener. While to some jaded listeners this song will come off as sappy, I think it’s an improved version of what Luke Bryan offers with his newest single “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” (and more country too).
“Outskirts of Heaven” isn’t some once in a lifetime song, but it’s a solid country song that goes a long way in helping re-establish the sonic roots of the genre. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Just like mainstream country isn’t going to be rebuilt with one song. It’s going to take several solid country songs like this one. I applaud Campbell for writing and releasing an actual country song and he’s one of several artists right now quietly attempting to bring country back to the airwaves. If you’re yearning for the sounds of 90s country radio or just an improvement from the norm in mainstream country, I highly recommend you check this song out. I hope this single is an indication of the direction Campbell takes for his next album. We need more songs like “Outskirts of Heaven” back on the radio.