Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams - Live at Levon's!
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Live at Levon's! (Royal Potato Family, 2023)

Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

As bandleader of Levon Helm's band for nearly a decade, Larry Campbell and his vocalist wife, Teresa Williams are as intimately familiar with Levon's "Barn" as any two artists that have ever played the renowned sound palace. To have a live recording from the venue was inevitable. Thus, these 12 tracks on "Live at Levon's" date to August 2019 and were originally intended to be a platform for touring the following year. Then COVID interrupted those plans as Campbell was stricken with a severe case.

Campbell, is a string wizard, (multiple guitars, mandolin, fiddle, pedal steel, vocals) while Woodstock and Helm associates Jesse Murphy (upright bass, vocals, tuba), Justin Guip (drums) and BrIan Mitchell (keyboards, accordion, harmonica, vocals) join the duo in a mixed program of originals and covers that run the gamut from country to gospel to bluegrass to jazz.

Fittingly, given Campbell's apprenticeship with the late Rev. Gary Davis, they begin with bright, acoustic-picked gospel of "Let Us Get Together" with Williams on the lead vocal. Campbell switches to guitar for the swampy original "Surrender To Love" sung by four of the band members on the chorus. The rousing jazzy throwback "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" follows with stellar turns from Mitchell on accordion and Campbell on pedal steel. The pulsating Campbell/Jorma Kaukonen penned "Angel of Darkness" sustains the lively pace before the gently strummed cover of John Sebastian's (Lovin" Spoonful) "Darling Be Home Soon" gives us a breath and reminder of how great a tune it is.

Rapid fire picking graces A.P Carter's "I Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow," and later Campbell becomes the adept fiddler on the instrumental take of Bill Monroe's "Old Dangerfield." Campbell's "Success" is a tender folk ballad, as his mournful pedal steel backs Williams' emotive vocal. Duke Ellington's "Caravan" gives the band a chance to stretch out, evoking those great live moments from Asleep at the Wheel. Campbell takes the rare vocal lead on the ballad he wrote with William Bell, "When I Stop Loving You" while closing with a spirited cover of Johnny Cash's "Big River" and his rambunctious original "It Ain't ​​Gonna Be a Good Night." On the contrary, this joyous show made a very good night for all.

CDs by Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams

Live at Levon's!, 2023 Contraband Love, 2017 Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, 2015

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