As listeners, we are all too prone to consider any new artist who pops up on our iTunes hub as an overnight success story. Little do some know, though, that most of these folks have been putting in their dues for years—sometimes even decades—to be heard by a broader audience. DC native Justin Shapiro is one such individual who has been honing his homegrown blend of folk-rock in for the past ten years, awaiting the moment when he could gather together a great band and release a bonafide debut album for the world to hear. With his Campfire Party, it’s finally his time to shine.
It isn’t often that album titles mesh so palpably with the songs that decorate their halls. More often than not, they seem to be either flippantly designed by a careless mainstream label or represent more of a flashy or abstract overall idea. Here, what you see ends up becoming what you hear as Shapiro and his band warmly envelope you in a series of whiskey-toned Americana tunes that feel exactly like what the cover is selling. Shapiro’s inviting us to his own campfire party for a heaping helping of soul, and the vigor with which he sells it all is, on the overall, impressive.
For a first-time effort, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel and it doesn’t have to. Giving it an ear, there are obvious signs of where to improve with Shapiro’s coming works. He’s intent on giving us a blues-laden record complete with all of the trimmings, but it’s in his sweeter efforts like ‘Stand’ and ‘My Own Way’ where he really seems to separate himself from the pack. They feel more like a deeper window into Shapiro’s own soul, and on the overall, they inflect the album with an overall spirit that keeps it from sidling into mediocrity.
There’s much to celebrate here, too, though. It’s been a long time coming for Shapiro to be able to release these songs, and hopefully, it won’t be as long before he can turn out another collection for us to lend an ear to. By then, he should be able to present a more concise catalog of tunes to the table, but getting us out by the campfire to party it on with him and the band isn’t such a bad idea for a first step into the world of studio LPs either. On the overall, it’s a heartening piece of work with a stellar band backing Shapiro up, well worth at least a listen.