Reviewed by Brian T. Atkinson
It's not often that a sideman steps to the fore and produces an album as successful as this. Of course, it's equally rare that a musician is a one-man-band as talented as Ted Russell Kamp. Known primarily as the bass player in Shooter Jennings' band, the .357s, Kamp plays more than 10 instruments - from bass and guitar to bouzouki and trumpet - on this solo effort. Recorded mostly in hotel rooms while on tour with Jennings, "Divisadero" suggests that Kamp is as gifted a songwriter as he is an instrumentalist.
The fact that he tours with Shooter gives a fair insight into the music Kamp favors. His own songs - Kamp wrote or co-wrote all 11 tunes - garners all the typical country-rock comparisons: Gram Parsons, The Eagles, Skynyrd. They're not far off. The Los Angeles-based songwriter has a keen eye for classic country - think the everyman heartbreak of Haggard - which shows up best on tracks like "Gypsy's Tune," "The Last Time I Let You Down" and "Music is My Mistress."
He's versatile as a songwriter, too. "Broke and Still Breaking" is a delicious mix of country and rockabilly, "Can't Go Back" offers sultry soul and the opening "Swinging Doors" drives like Buddy Holly behind the wheel of a T-bird. The standout and closest to Parsons at heart, though, is "Better Before You Were Big Time." Shooter's cameo on the song certainly adds depth, but it's apparent Kamp can pull this off just fine without any help.