(April 2024)


REVIEW: Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams All This Time

Artist: Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams

Album: All This Time

By: Hal Horowitz

Any roots musician would be envious of multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell’s resume.

Veteran (seven years!) guitarist for Bob Dylan, band leader for Levon Helm and organizer/musical director of his Midnight Rambles until the drummer/singer’s death, supporting work for Jackson Browne, Keith Richards, Emmylou Harris and many more is just for starters. Campbell is also a three-time Grammy winner for production (on Helm’s albums) and, along with wife Teresa Williams, is the focus of a 10-part Amazon Prime series. This is a guy whose accomplishments to date easily fill a full Wikipedia page.

Like many auxiliary players, Campbell was reticent to venture into the solo spotlight. But with the encouragement of others and the support of wife/actress/singer Williams, the pair (who met in 1986) stepped into the public eye with 2015s self-titled debut. It was well enough received for one high-profile publication to notably declare them “the first couple of Americana.” Another studio set and a live one followed, leading to this, their fourth outing.

It’s a further example of Campbell’s instrumental versatility (on guitar, pedal steel, mandolin and bass—though oddly not violin, another tool in his arsenal) and Williams’ soulful, sweet yet occasionally rough-hewn vocals. There’s a bit of Delaney and Bonnie to the approach but Campbell and Williams steer more towards a country/folk/blues croon as opposed to D&B’s gutsy, occasionally ragged Southern R&B.

Williams handles much of the heavy lifting in the singing department, but Campbell’s crustier voice is effective as well, especially when the two harmonize, which happens often.

The collection gets off to a roaring start when Campbell picks sizzling, near bluegrass, electric guitar licks on the opening locomotive fueled rhythm of “Desert Island Dreams” which encourages unplugging from technology for a while to “Slow down, breathe deep/Don’t let the mad world in where we sleep.”

A similar concept appears in the Texas-styled blues-rocking “We Done Earned It” when with swapped lead vocals, that then join for a chorus expressing the joy of taking time off (“We work hard for the money/We can show you the scars” they assert). Campbell lays into a tough guitar solo as the band chugs behind them.

Seven of the ten tracks are penned by Campbell with three seldom heard covers that slot flawlessly with the rootsy vibe. An affinity for country/folk is palpable as Campbell revs-up his pedal steel on Jesse Colin Young’s ballad “Pretty and the Fair,” a charismatic if obscure 1974 composition. Julie Miller’s “I Love You” expresses the duo’s feelings about each other minus mushy sentimentality, and with a refreshing dose of sly humor.

A related feeling flows through the jaunty, sunshiny “The Way You Make Me Feel” which highlights Campbell’s fingerpicking as he sings about their early romance, “It’s been so long since I’ve met anyone like you.” It’ll generate a knowing smile from those who have felt those first tinges of a connection that might go the distance. Things get serious for the title track, featuring Little Feat’s Bill Payne’s organ and Campbell’s mandolin, as the twosome sing about the enduring strength of their relationship.

This is Americana at its finest and least affected. Campbell and Williams fluently integrate various roots genres, making the couple’s music honest, sincere and affecting. It exudes heart, soul and a mutual understanding that invites the listener into their world.