Larry Campbell / Teresa Williams

Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams

  • AllMusic Rating
    8
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Though they've been married since 1988 and have often collaborated on other people's records, this Red House date marks the first shared album between session ace Larry Campbell and singer-guitarist Teresa Williams. Campbell of course is renowned for his membership in Bob Dylan's band, playing in Levon Helm's group, and for his voluminous sideman and touring work. Williams, also a member of Helm's band, has had her own career for decades -- she first hired Larry in 1986 to back her at N.Y.C.'s Bottom Line -- and has worked with Mavis Staples, Emmylou Harris, Dylan, and Buddy and Julie Miller, to name a few. This is a righteous collection of originals and covers that ranges from classic stellar duet country to Americana, rural gospel, and blues with a lot of space in between. Campbell wrote or co-wrote eight of these eleven tracks, including the hard-grooving R&B of "Surrender to Love." His throaty baritone and Williams' clean, Appalachian alto blend beautifully; the contrast bridges American musical heritage from the '20s to the 21st century, and Campbell's funky guitar work adds fire. The core band on this date includes Little Feat pianist Billy Payne, drummer Justin Guip, and bassist Byron Isaacs. "Another One More Time" is an Americana love song with Williams taking the lead; Campbell and guest Amy Helm provide harmonies. One can hear traces of Gram Parsons' and Emmylou Harris' approach here, but the big, ringing, layered guitars and Williams' wide-open back-holler soul offer a modern twist. Campbell plays mandolin on the wrenching "Down on My Knees," the grain in his voice is offered a poignant solace through Williams' moving harmony singing. Levon Helm is heard on an arrangement of Donny Winters' and Ray Edenton's country classic, "You're Running Wild," which was a vehicle for the Louvin Brothers. (It was recorded during the drummer's Electric Dirt sessions in 2009.) The spirit and influence of the Rev. Gary Davis is evoked twice here, first on the rag-cum-country blues of "Everybody Loves You" and later on the bluesman's own "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning." The latter is a brilliant showcase for Williams. She wails, growls, and testifies atop Campbell's razor-wire guitars and Payne's B-3 as the rhythm section provides a slippery reggae groove. The closing cover of the Grateful Dead's "Attics of My Life" is rendered as a Southern hymn. With only an acoustic guitar as accompaniment, the stirring three-part harmony has help from Amy Helm. Gorgeously recorded and mixed by Guip, Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams is 44 minutes of roots music gold. The new original songs stand side by side with their classic counterparts. These inspiring performances are made possible because of the lifetime of collaborative experience -- in everyday life as well as in music -- this pair put into them. American roots fans take note, this album will still sound as fresh and bracing in a decade as it does now.

blue highlight denotes track pick