Album Review

Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams - Self-titled

Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams - Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams

You've probably been been wondering where the bloody hell this disc was for  years -- it was perfectly obvious it was going to be made. But when? Then into your hands comes this stunning, visually beautiful disc. Not the disc itself, but the artwork surrounding it. There are three photographs of the couple and -- damn it I hate saying this -- you can feel the love between them; it is that strong in the photos.  

For years, Larry Campbell was the band leader for Levon Helm's band both at the Midnight Rambles and when they went on the road, in whatever form. In addition, there are his eight years of work with Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour, which Rolling Stone called the greatest period of that tour. With both bands, he has been given great credit for bringing a driving energy to the band every night. 

He and Teresa Williams have been married for decades and the total of albums for either or both of them, according to The All Music Guide is a great big zero. As talented as they are, this is criminal considering the glut of unadulterated crap that comes and passes  for albums. Williams has a voice that will make you sit up and notice, make the hair on the back of your neck or arms stand straight up.  

One night, we were in Nashville on a working vacation and it was the morning after the end of a long day, or maybe it was still the night. We wandered into a relatively quiet crowd and then this woman started singing. It got so quiet, you could almost hear the roaches stop what they were doing and pay attention. It was one of those rare moments when you just surrender your attention to what she can do with a song. The feeling and intonation she possesses doesn’t just bring the song to life, it snaps you into the song. She has a voice that raises so much emotion. Listen to the beauty and emotion Williams puts into the Reverend Gary Davis’, “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning.” It might be enough to take you back to that time.  

As expected, on this disc, Campbell and Williams who have played with such varied musicians as Marie Knight, Keith Richards, Mavis Staples, and so many others, and are helped by a handful of fantastic musicians: Justin Guip (drums) and Byron Isaacs (bass) from Levon Helm’s band.  Bill Payne from Little Feat is on the piano, and Amy Helm does a beautiful job on harmony vocals. Her father Levon is on the drums on one cut, which was recorded before his passing. 

As to the 11 songs on the disc, Campbell wrote six and co-wrote two. Each one has the power to move you, to get you up and paying attention. This is a beautiful disc that is way too long overdue.  

 

by bob gottlieb

Thanks for the comments.  I was a big fan of Levon and thus got to appreciate the work of Larry for Levon and many other artists.  He is an Americana treasure.  Both of them were prominent in Levon's 2008 Merlefest album, one of my favorite live discs.  I was lucky to have been in the audience.

The musicianship on the CD is first rate and what I would expect from Campbell.  That being said, Larry's vocals are not the best and on some of the songs the volume of the instruments seems to overpower the vocals.  Maybe it is just me.

Together Larry and Teresa are fine vocally.

My favorite songs are the bluesy versions of "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning" and "Ain't Nobody For Me".

Well worth visiting.

 

 

Saw the full band at a local venue a few nights ago for a wonderful 90 minute show without Bill Payne.  Great variety of songs as you can see from this video of a similar show.  I wish I could remember the title of the rock song Larry riffs into at the 2:00:45 mark.  TRAFFIC song maybe? 

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=youtube+larry+campbell&FORM=VIRE14#view=detail&mid=1327DFE8335B24BB20571327DFE8335B24BB2057

I help out on a blues show at a local public radio station and we played "Keep You Lamp Trimmed and Burning" from the CD.  Larry and Teresa did a scorching version at the concert as well as "Samson and Delilah". 

I searched Youtube for some of Larry's work and it is amazing how many other roots artists he has appeared with.  Well-respected in the business even if many folks have not heard of him.