(April 2024)


REVIEW: All This Time Is an Ode to Joy from Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams

Artist: Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams

Album: All This Time

By: Nick Cristiano

Game recognizes game: On their new album, All This Time, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams borrow from another prominent Americana couple, Buddy and Julie Miller. Their searing take on the Millers’ "I Love You" matches the almost scarily intense devotion (“I’d take a bullet for you”) at the heart of the Julie-penned original.

And devotion is what All This Time is all about, though in a generally brighter and less obsessive vein than “I Love You.” Campbell, master of all things strings and former accompanist to Bob Dylan and the late Levon Helm (among others), and singer-actress Williams have been together for four decades. Their chemistry is again evident as they alternate lead vocals and harmonize beautifully on this 10-song set — with seven Campbell originals — that chronicles a bond both hard-earned and enduring.

“Desert Island Dreams” gets the album off to a sunny start; it’s a countrified escapist lark about being alone together (“Dream about all the joy we gonna find”), with Williams taking the lead and a liquid Campbell guitar solo reminiscent of Dickey Betts. “Ride With Me” — another Williams lead vocal — offers a similar theme (“Leave the everyday behind”) at a slower pace, while “The Way You Make Me Feel,” with Campbell taking an endearing lead, is a twangy country jaunt.

The mandolin-inflected title song offers a lesson about not seeing that what you might really need is right in front of you, because you’re (in a deft turn of phrase) “chained to being free.”

“I Think About You” takes a turn toward steady-rolling, Fats Domino-style R&B, with Little Feat’s Bill Payne, a regular accompanist here, on organ. “That’s All It Took,” however, is classic country, a George Jones number that features Campbell flexing his chops on pedal steel (and drums by Helm, recorded before he died in 2012).

“A Little Better” is acoustic folk accented by accordion and Campbell’s mandolin. He sings about emerging from a dark time and comes around to a common theme here: “Find the simple joys” (in this case, watching Laurel and Hardy).

The delicate folk of Jesse Colin Young’s “Pretty and the Fair” closes the album, but just before that, Campbell and Williams cut loose on “We Done Earned It,” belting out the lyrics with unbridled joy (it’s hard to avoid that word) over a bluesy track and tough, metallic guitar riff: “We’re gonna kick off the evening right / Till we welcome the morning light / ’Cause we done earned it, baby.”

It sounds as if they certainly have.