It takes an album filled with enough gleeful nonsense to support the idea that sometimes the jam-folk persona of singing-songwriting isn’t a reach for deep ideas but rather, a statement for general merrymaking. Campfire Party by Justin Shapiro brings up quite a solid example of this agreeable entertainment, with a child-like inspiration behind songs of nature and the cursory feelings we all encounter by virtue of living through the throes of entertainment. Much like the title of the record, Shapiro’s album more than a decade in the making often pure frivolity, but it is absolute and necessary frivolity.
Songs crafted from an individual who grew up on the traditional singer-songwriter diet, Shapiro is well-versed in the ways of swinging like Cat Stevens or applying a skin with a persona akin to Warren Zevon. The track “If You Wanna Wake Up” is reminiscent of Yusuf’s Harold and Maude hit, the less activate “Tyrannosaurus Rex” a Dave Matthews Band deep cut. Shapiro seems eager to form a persona with this particular record, therefore he diligently tries his hand at several different stylistics choices. However, Campfire Party hits its stride (and best lives up to its name) when Shapiro plays himself.
To that end, Shapiro’s presence on record is generally jovial, even when a quasi-political statement ventures forth. Like most radio-oriented folk music from the early 70’s, the message is clear but often without the vitriol of those slinging protest songs. This doesn’t hinder Shapiro’s endeavors, it’s an endearing quality to his music proving Shapiro is just as much of an obsessive fan as the rest of us.