Album Review: Nerissa Campbell – Blue Shadows

Nerissa Campbell
Blue Shadows 

Nerissa Campbell is a Brooklyn NY Jazz singer and songwriter. Her connection to Iowa (LV tries to stay local, y’know) is through her husband, who’s from here; they come to Iowa frequently, and she’s played memorable shows in Iowa City, most recently at the Mill. Her music isn’t purely Jazz, which values improvisation on a standard songbook over original songwriting. She does sing with an accomplished trio of Jazz musicians on Blue Shadows, but the focus is on Cambell’s singing. She sings in a way that is focused on the songs. Her clear alto voice, with only occasional hints of vibrato brings subtle nuances of dynamics and timbre to her songs, always in service to the lyric. Most singers learn a song well enough to perform it competently while making a grocery list in their heads, but Campbell like a good actor, stays in the moment.

Lyrically, Cambell hews close to the precarious, ambiguous point between being in love and falling out of it. She romanticizes the big city after dark: “Down Canal Street, the landscape suddenly capsized, swallowed by black and white.” she sings in “Down Canal.” But in “Powder Burn” she sings “was I having a little fun, or was the fun having me?” You can get caught up in the late night jazz club ambience, but there’s always some hint of lost love and loneliness lurking around the corner.

She sings about love almost exclusively in its absence and the New York City streets she sings about are deserted and poorly lit. The title track, “Blue Shadows” stretches out to over eight minutes, with Matthew Jodrell’s quiet piano recalling Bill Evans and Vince Guaraldi, outlining a chord progression with some of Radiohead’s modal wistfulness. Nerissa Campbell explores a tricky, dark emotional landscape, lit with fleeting flashes of joy. Having met her, it’s surprising to me how this sunny, blonde Australian woman’s imagination takes her to the places Blue Shaodws goes. But that’s imagination for you—when it’s working, no telling where it will end up.

Kent Williams cares a lot about Transformers because there is more than meets the eye.


Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV »


Summer Programs 2020

Get 150+ local restaurants delivered to your door in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids areas!


July 2020 marks Little Village’s 19th anniversary. With our community of readers alongside us, we’ll be ready for what the next 19 have in store.



$10/mo or $120/year
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.


$20/mo or $240/year
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.


$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW) connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.