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Recording high point of eventful year for Donnie Campbell
It’s been quite a year for Donnie Campbell.
He received the East Coast Music Award’s Stompin’ Tom Award, he suffered a stroke and he released a new album, “Softly & Tenderly.”
“Oh, and the dog broke my finger.”
The dog in question is the energetic Bailey who at 18 months likes to occasionally run off from Campbell. It was one of those exuberant runs that led to Campbell breaking his finger.
“I went to grab for her and I grabbed her collar and she went and my finger went snap,” Campbell said recently. “It was on the left hand so then I had to learn how to play guitar with an open tuning with two fingers.”
While the broken finger was annoying, Campbell experienced another health issue this year that could have been much worse. He was in the middle of recording a tune for his latest album when he began to feel strange.
“I was actually recording the CD and nothing was making sense to me,” Campbell said. “I thought I think I will let this go for tonight. So I drove home and I got in the house and I sat down and CNN was on and I watching the words that roll by and I couldn’t make head or tail of it. I couldn’t put the letters together to make a word so I said to Agnes (his wife), I think you better take me to the hospital, I think there’s something wrong.”
By the time Campbell got to the hospital, he couldn’t remember how to get out of the car or even who he was.
“The last thing I remember is them saying who are you and I didn’t know. I had no idea who I was and I had no idea where I was at. After that I don’t remember anything.
“It was like in the space of 20 minutes I went from being healthy to not having a clue who I was or where I was.”
Campbell, 65, had experienced a brain bleed, otherwise known as a brain hemorrhage, a type of stroke.
Within days his memory returned and he began to feel better but his recovery has taken time.
“The alternative could be so much worse. I was lucky that there was no paralysis or any of that stuff — I’ll take that.”
Today life is pretty much back to normal but slowing down has become a priority.
Campbell’s idea of slowing down is doing a weekly radio show, performing regularly around Cape Breton and completing his latest album, “Softly & Tenderly,” a collection of well-known hymns and songs usually sung at funerals. Campbell often sings at funerals and it was after one of them that he was asked to do an album of music appropriate to that occasion.
“I said sure, why not? That’s where it came from,” he said.
Although best known as a traditional singer, Campbell began singing in church choirs when he was a child. He eventually became a choir director at St. Anthony Daniel before moving on to St. Theresa’s parish as director of their senior folk choir.
“Softly & Tenderly” was recorded in Sydney River at Coda Studio with Ralph Dillon producing and providing most of the instrumentation. Kevin Evans of Evans and Doherty supplied guitar while Janet Bickerton sang backing vocals. The album is available at the Cape Breton Curiosity Shop and wherever Campbell can be found performing.