There are times on Contraband Love, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams' followup
to their self-titled 2015 set, when the music is so pretty that it may take a moment before
you realize they're singing about life's greatest hardships. "The Other Side of Pain," the opening track, is so chirpy in demeanor, even as Williams sings "How's it feel to close
your book of lies at the chapter/where the sky above me drops its acid rain," that you have
to confess that the song's title tried its best to warn you. When "Save Me From Myself" comes on next, with Campbell supplying the guitars (including pedal steel) and mandolin, and
Litte Feat's Bill Payne on the honey-tonk piano, you may think you're ready for it, but
Williams' delivery is so aggrieved that she'll get to you anyway. So yes, Contraband
Love is sometimes an uneasy record lyrically - addiction is a recurring theme, for one
("Three Days in a Row" is harrowing) - yet it's also one surprisingly rife with
joyousness. Bolstered by the rhythm section of Brazillian Girls bassist Jesse Murphy and longtime Woodstock-area Justin
Guip, the married couple at the center of things puts honesty and directness above all - you may feel uneasy as they
sing of the "Hit and Run Drive" ("a broken survivor, stunned and staggering, lost and lonely") or the "blood moon rising
and it's burning bright" on "It Ain't Gonna be a Good Night," but somehow they make it all sound alright anyway.
And hey, you also get Levon Helm in one of his final recordings, adding his traps to Carl Perkins' "Turn Around."
If that doesn't make you smile, then nothin' will.
by Jeff Tamarkin