ON MOVIN’ ON AND UP:
|Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams|
Larry: I left Dylan’s band at the end of ’04—and soon after started working with Levon. That was a really cool thing. Teresa and I had been singing together on her farm down in Tennessee with her family, and that was sort of the beginning of our collaboration. When I started working with Levon in Woodstock, Teresa ended up joining me up there, too, and things really started to gel. So we began concentrating more on songs that we could sing together and still perform in Levon’s band.
I had just gotten off of being on the road for eight years with Bob, and I wanted to be with Teresa—I thought that our ability to create music together was amazing, and what a great opportunity to be able to do it with Levon and the whole band. So about this time, I started writing some songs, and we performed a few songs with the Levon band. It all happened very organically. Eventually, we realized that we had to do a record. That is the short version of how we got here.
ON PLANTING SEEDS:
Teresa: All along, Larry had been touting that we were working on a record on the air since before we started working with Levon, and right after he left Dylan. But when people like Levon, or Jorma [Kaukonen], or Bromberg called, Larry would drop whatever he was doing to produce them. Who wouldn’t? So we were just rolling along, like the shoemaker’s children have no shoes, if you will. You think you have plenty of time to get to your own record, but it takes a lot longer than you might have imagined. But the seeds were planted and slowly growing in and around all that though. These experiences ended up really contributing to what finally came out on the record.
ON DIVING DEEP:
Larry: My career over the last several years has been backing up and producing other people. Songwriting is very difficult for me, and nothing ever comes easy. So for this, I really had to dive deep to get these songs out. Above all, our record was a natural avenue of expression— I never want things to sound contrived or formulaic, yet I always wanted to find the feeling in my writing. It’s unexpected, because you are really spilling your guts.
ON SHIFTING FROM PRODUCER:
Larry: Normally, I am the guy that is supposed to provide objectivity and be there for the artist. I realized that when you are trying to do that for yourself, it is nearly impossible. I would go from thinking, “you know, this stuff is pretty good” to “who the hell am I trying to kid here, this is nonsense.” And normally, when you go through all these emotions, the producer really knows what is happening and calms the artist down. Teresa was great in that regard. For example, I could not have done my vocals without her because she provided some objectivity that I needed. There were many things I was trying to do that I shouldn’t have been trying to do—and she helped through some important musical decisions.
On the technical side, Justin [Guip] was invaluable as an engineer. I would describe what I wanted the record to sound like in abstract terms, and he busted his ass to come up with templates that might represent what I was talking about, and we finally got there. He is a brilliant engineer.
ON SURVIVING LEVON:
Larry: The first couple of tracks we did for this record were with Levon, because while we were recording Electric Dirt, we had some downtime at the studio. At the time, I asked Levon if he would play on a couple of tunes that we were thinking about recording; this was around 2007 or 2008. One of those tracks survived, and ended up on the record with him playing drums. That was when we put a foot in the water for getting the entire project done. Soon after he died, Teresa and I realized we had to make some decisions about what we were going to do. That’s when we started to focus on getting back to the record. Byron Isaacs has played bass with the Ramble Band on the three Levon records that we did— he’s a great bass player. Justin, our engineer, is also a great drummer and we have a real chemistry. When we started everything up again, I asked him to do the rhythm section and everything was coming out beautifully. Finally, Teresa and I had been working with Little Feat a bunch, and Bill Payne became a great friend. We were working on project with Bill and at the time, he graciously offered to add piano to our record. What better than having Bill Payne playing piano on your record? I am really proud of everybody who contributed to this record.
ON THE 10,000-FOOT VIEW:
Larry: As I have had time to get away from this record and listen to it with objectivity, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is everything I wanted it to be. Our idea was to just follow the path of that reaction. If 10 people are interested in it, well great, I’m glad it moved you. If more people like it, then we will follow that path. This road is getting longer, and we’re going to take as far as we can take it.
|While much focus has been put on the Grateful Dead celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2015,Jefferson Airplane is also celebrating the same anniversary. As we reported this year’s Lockn’ Festivalwill feature a one-time only tribute to 50 years of Jefferson Airplane featuring founding members Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady. Today, The Daily Beast published a feature on the tribute which includes word of what other founding members of Airplane had to say when asked to participate and that Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann will be a special guest during the set.
Lockn’ co-organizer Dave Frey revealed to The Daily Beast a full-on reunion was in the works but schedules couldn’t be worked out. “Grace (Slick) is very happily retired and wishes everybody the best,” Frey said. “She’s just the coolest ever. But she’s not gonna ever stand on a stage again.”
Jefferson Airplane fans shouldn’t expect more. “It’s one and done, you know?” Kaukonen said about the set. The Lockn’ Festival will take place September 10 – 13 featuring Phil Lesh & Friends, Widespread Panic, The String Cheese Incident and many others.
Photos by Marc Millman
From the minute that Larry Campbell walked onto the stage with his wife Teresa Williams and the band, you could sense the warmth emanating from each corner of the room. The space had been filled with what looked and felt like close friends and long time fans. Unsurprisingly, within the 50 minute duration of their performance, the artists were able to capture the hearts of every single person present.
Larry Campbell is someone you would expect to give a good show, what with his long career as a producer, musician, and singer. When he plays the strings, it looks as if he is barely touching them. However, collaborating with other artists is tricky and not all sounds are meant to blend. All of those concerns flew out the door once Teresa Williams started singing. A powerhouse with a vocal range, she used trills, riffs, and slides that made every note simply irresistible. The couple performed serenades, powerful hits, and songs that harkened to a time gone by. Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams’ self-titled album is released on June 23rd, and you would be making a big mistake by not buying it immediately.
– Avital Glibicky
The Electric Sextet of Hot Tuna returned to The Egg, almost seven years to the date of the last Hot Tuna performance, an acoustic duo, on Dec. 11, 2007. Hundreds of old hippies and couples with more than a touch of grey, excitedly attended the performance; some enthusiastic enough to cheer loudly for Jorma Kaukonen and knew every song and dove head first into every jam alongside the band. Donna the Buffalo opened the night with a very powerful set, garnering chatter in The Egg’s lobby, with a new fan, Susan, remarking ‘Oh they’re so much fun!’ in her first time seeing them.
With Hot Tuna taking the to stage, the audience roared with approval, seeing Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen and a nearly 50 year relationship playing music together. Alongside them stood Larry Campbell on guitar and fiddle, Barry Mitterhoff on mandolin and Justin Guip on drums, an all-star lineup that welcomed Teresa Williams for part of the set. The alt-country of “Mama Let me Lay it on You” featured Campbell’s fiddling, “Ode to Billy Dean” brought out Tuna’s blues origins and “Can’t Get Satisfied” had a hint of Freddie King’s “Going Down” and was far from radio play, as much of the night’s songs would be; Hot Tuna is an overlooked predecessor to the early jambands that developed in the 1970s and ’80s. Jorma took a moment to respond to the continuous cries of “JORMA!” from an audience member, saying “That’s my name, don’t wear it out.”
A progressive jam build from “Been so Long” when Campbell took to the mandolin, which led to Teresa Williams coming to the stage for the first song of the night, the enthusiastic traveling country blues of “Children of Zion” and “Wade in the Water” which was full of energy and had Williams dancing all over in a circle.
Teresa later returned for “White Rabbit” with its foreboding bass line from Casady. Feed your head? Feed your ears with this wonderful voice that was on par with Grace Slick in her heyday. Jack strutted around the stage as “Mourning Interrupted” began and when the band found that one groove in the and stated into the jam, the clear highlight of the night was at hand. There was no ADD here, and not just because they’re too old for that $#!&. A cover of “Deep Ellum Blues” featured Williams and Campbell on vocals, a tune he sang frequently when he toured with Phil Lesh & Friends’ in 2006. “Sugaree” with Teresa featured solos from everyone, resulting in the longest song of the night. To cap the night, the band played the classic “Funky #7″ which delved into psychedelic rock before moving into a prog jam, with big jamming to end it, alongside Teresa’s revival-level of energy. Let’s hope it doesn’t take seven years for Hot Tuna to play The Egg or Upstate New York in the future.
Setlist: True Religion, Mama let me lay it on you, Ode to Billy Dean, Can’t Get Satisfied, Been so Long, Children of Zion, Wade in the Water, Second Chances, White Rabbit, Mourning Interrupted, Deep Elum Blues, Bar Room Crystal Ball, Sugaree
Encore: Funky #7
|David Bromberg plays Capitol Theatre
Godfather of Americana is touring in support of Only Slightly Mad
CLEARWATER – Multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter David Bromberg is set to bring his musical cohorts to the Tampa Bay area. The David Bromberg Band will perform Thursday, Jan. 15, 7:30 p.m., at Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St.
Not one to rest on his laurels or choose to ride off into the sunset after decades in the business, David Bromberg – considered by some the godfather of Americana – released his new album “Only Slightly Mad” in September 2013.
It is Bromberg’s second Appleseed Recordings studio release since 2007’s “Try Me One More Time.” That album came after a 17-year hiatus from recording new music. It earned Bromberg a 2008 Grammy Award nomination in the category of Best Traditional Folk Album.
Bromberg was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1945. He was raised in Tarrytown, New York.
“As a kid, I listened to rock ’n’ roll and whatever else was on the radio,” said Bromberg in a biographical sketch provided by Mod Media. “I discovered Pete Seeger and The Weavers and, through them, Reverend Gary Davis. I then discovered Big Bill Broonzy, who led me to Muddy Waters and the Chicago blues. This was more or less the same time I discovered Flatt and Scruggs, which led to Bill Monroe and Doc Watson.”
According to the biography, Bromberg began studying guitar at age 13 and eventually enrolled in Columbia University as a musicology major.
The Greenwich Village folk scene in the mid-’60s drew him to the downtown clubs and coffeehouses, where he could watch and learn from the best performers, including primary sources such as his inspiration and teacher, the Reverend Gary Davis.
Bromberg’s sensitive and versatile approach to guitar-playing earned him jobs playing the Village “basket houses” for tips, the occasional paying gig, and employment as a backing musician for Tom Paxton, Jerry Jeff Walker and Rosalie Sorrels, among others. He became a first-call, “hired gun” guitarist for recording sessions, ultimately playing on hundreds of records by artists including Bob Dylan, Link Wray, The Eagles, Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson, and Carly Simon.
Still, the spotlight eluded Bromberg until a fateful day in 1970.
On Wednesday, Aug. 26 of that year, Bromberg took the stage as an accompanist for American folk singer-songwriter Rosalie Sorrels at the Isle of Wight Festival. Following her set, Native American/Mexican American rock group Redbone was schedule to perform. They did not appear on stage, however, and Bromberg unexpectedly performed a solo set in front of an estimated 600,000 concertgoers.
The impromptu performance earned Bromberg a solo deal with Columbia Records, for whom he went on to record four albums. His eponymous 1971 debut included “The Holdup,” a songwriting collaboration with former Beatle George Harrison, who also played slide guitar on the track. Bromberg also met the Grateful Dead and wound up with four of their members playing on his next two albums.
As his career progressed, Bromberg’s material – based in the folk and blues idioms – continually expanded with each new album to encompass bluegrass, ragtime, country and ethnic music. Meanwhile, his touring band grew apace. By the mid-’70s, the David Bromberg Big Band included horn players, a violinist, and several multi-instrumentalists, including Bromberg himself.
Despite sold-out concerts and a string of acclaimed albums on the Fantasy label, Bromberg found himself exhausted by the logistics of the music business.
“I decided to change the direction of my life,” he said.
Bromberg dissolved his band in 1980, and he and his artist/musician wife, Nancy Josephson, moved from Northern California to Chicago, where he attended the Kenneth Warren School of Violin Making. Though he still toured periodically, the recordings slowed to a trickle and then stopped following 1989’s “Sideman Serenade.”
After a few too many Chicago winters, the Brombergs relocated in 2002 to Wilmington,
Delaware. They became part of the city’s artist-in-residence program and Bromberg established David Bromberg Fine Violins, a retail store and repair shop for high quality instruments.
It was Bromberg’s frequent participation in the city’s weekly jam sessions that eventually helped rekindle his desire to make music again. A little prompting from fellow musicians such as Chris Hillman (The Byrds, Desert Rose Band, Flying Burrito Brothers) and bluegrass wizard Herb Pedersen didn’t hurt, either.
The Grammy-nominated “Try Me One More Time” heralded Bromberg’s 2007 solo return to the studio. He continued his musical revitalization, playing shows on his own, with the David Bromberg Quartet, and reunions of the David Bromberg Big Band.
In 2009, spurred by a suggestion from John Hiatt that he come to Hiatt’s Nashville studio to “mess around,” Bromberg came up with the idea for “Use Me” – an album featuring Bromberg with Hiatt and other friends such as Levon Helm, Los Lobos, Tim O’Brien, Vince Gill, Widespread Panic, Dr. John, Keb’ Mo’ and Linda Ronstadt. Each guest artist either wrote or selected a song and then produced Bromberg’s interpretation of their suggested tune, thereby fulfilling the Bromberg’s request to “Use Me.”
In 2013, content with the balance of both his violin business and performing career, Bromberg was ready to record again with his live band.
Enlisting old friend Larry Campbell and engineer Justin Guip, Bromberg and his group entered Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, New York, in March 2013. Bromberg recruited some of Helm’s former recording and touring musicians for added instrumentation. The David Bromberg Band emerged 12 days later with “Only Slightly Mad,” a return to his genre-bending albums of the ’70s and ’80s.
Bromberg fans who attend the Jan. 15 concert at the Capitol Theatre will find blues, bluegrass, gospel, folk, Irish fiddle tunes, pop and English drinking songs happily coexisting as Bromberg performs selections from the new album as well as songs from his decades-long career.
For newcomers, “Only Slightly Mad” offers an introduction to a performer whose range and musical depth have delighted devoted audiences for more than 40 years.
The David Bromberg Band features Bromberg on guitar, vocals, mandolin and fiddle; Mark Cosgrove on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Robert ‘Butch’ Amoit on bass and vocals; Nate Grower on fiddle, guitar, mandolin and vocals; and Josh Kanusky on drums and vocals.
Zach Caruso will open the show.
Tickets start at $35. Call 791-7400 or visit www.atthecap.com.
Article published on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015
Copyright © Tampa Bay Newspapers: All rights reserved.
Mountain Jam announced a more conclusive lineup after Gov’t Mule, moe., and The Black Keys were announced a couple of weeks ago.Mountain Jam is in its 11th year and held at Hunter Mountain June 4-7, 2015.
Top performers include Robert Plantand the Sensational Space Shifters, who have reached new heights of success with the 2014 release ofLullaby and the Ceaseless Roar. Also headlining are, Alabama Shakes, Vermont native, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and, of course, Michael Franti & Spearhead. The rest of the lineup appears to be taking a page from the handbook of awesome festival lineups, and it is top notch. Joining the headliners are: Rebelution, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead,Railroad Earth, Lake Street Dive, Trigger Hippy, Benjamin Booker and The Wailers, Rusted Root, Nicki Bluhm & The Grambers, Shakey Graves, Jon Cleary, The Budos Band, Dopapod, Amy Helm & The Handsome Strangers, Hurray For The Ruff Raff, Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, Marco Benevento, The Mother Hips, Nikki Lane and Sons of Bill.
Additionally, Big Gigantic, The Budos Band and Dopapod will be the late night artists. Early bird tickets are still available at MountainJam.com.
Rock and roll was not supposed to last. And rock and rollers still playing in their 70s? That wasn’t supposed to happen either.
Regardless of whether you mark the birth of rock and roll with the high steppin’ and hollerin’ entertainers from the Delta in the early 30s like Charley Patton (who was said to play his guitar behind his back) or 1954 when the Hillbilly Cat Elvis Presley made his first electrifying sessions at Sun Records in Memphis, this thing called Rock and Roll was–at best–thought of as a fad. Kids stuff. Something we’d all eventually grow out of.
I was thinking of all of those grumpy social observers–the 50s era djs smashing records on the air (“rock and roll has got to go”), the square congressional pundits who denounced teenagers and their crazy music—as I watched Jack Casady, longtime pal Jorma Kaukonen, and the rest of Hot Tuna at Casady’s sold out 70th birthday show last Saturday night at the Beacon Theater. The Beacon is one of the last great remaining theater treasures in Manhattan. And the 3,000-strong crowd, mostly in their 60s (with a combined age of about 195,000 years) gave the septuagenarian birthday boy a standing ovation after he opened his celebratory performance with a bass solo, noted on the set list simply as, “Jack plays.”
Rock and roll wasn’t supposed to wind up in great palaces like the Beacon, either. Starting in the 1970s and repeating like clockwork every decade, rock magazine writers have wondered aloud when the Grateful Dead or the Rolling Stones or The Who or Paul McCartney would call it quits. “Why do they bother?” “Why don’t they retire?”
But there was Mr. Casady and his Metallic Gold Epiphone Signature Bass which he designed himself, playing just off-center stage, solo at the Beacon at 8:15 on a Saturday night, with an incredible tone that seemed to amplify not only his flowing sense of melody but a bit of every player he has ever admired. For two hours, Casady stomped, jumped, and raced over the entire stage, engaging every musician as if to say “I hear what you’re doing, and I’ve got something that will help.” It was a Hot Tuna show all the way, but it was also Jack’s night. He was up front in the mix but never boomy, always perfectly balanced, with every note from high to low was articulate–round, strong, and easy to follow. I’ve seen The Who, McCartney, the Stones, and performed at all kinds of venues from basements to the Royal Albert Hall and I’ve never heard a bass tone like Jack put out Saturday night at the Beacon, which for him was probably just another great night out of many more to come.
The lighting on stage was minimal, with a blue-toned edge on the wings and at the back curtain which made Jack’s black attire and Gold Metallic bass stand out from any vantage point. Hot Tuna made it seem like there was no bad seat at the Beacon.
Casady was joined on stage by a number of old friends, including G.E. Smith, former bandleader for Saturday Night Live, who respectfully played rhythm most of the night on a 1962 Epiophone Sheraton with Tremotone (“It’s my most favorite guitar I’ve ever had. Nothing comes close”). Larry Campbell, who helped direct Levon Helm’s band and is an equally fine producer and multi-instrumentalist (and like G.E., a veteran of Bob Dylan’s touring band) led several excellent solo passages on guitar and fiddle (playing the role of the much-missed Papa John Creach). Each of Campbell’s solos was neatly wrapped with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Marty Balin was there too, his voice sounding terrific, easily rocking his own Jefferson Airplane classics like “Plastic Fantastic Lover” and seconding Hot Tuna vocalist Teresa Williams on “Somebody to Love” with gusto. Jorma played electric and acoustic and flowed back and forth between leading and support. His solos were knarly and more than once left Larry and G.E. smiling at each other as if to say: “What just happened?”
The feeling on stage was warm and easy, and the musicians seemed to revel in stretching classic chord structures like pizza dough until they found a new hole to jump through re-invent themselves again.
Throughout the night, Casady’s notes retained their tight, round, tone. You could imagine traces of Monk Montgomery, the pioneering electric bassist who backed brother Wes (much to the chagrin of jazz purists) and hip shaking R&B bassists like Duck Dunn, or old friends known only to Jack. Or, maybe it was just the slightly exotic smoke that seemed to be coming from behind me the moment the lights went dim and Jack took the stage.
Whatever was going on, Jack’s bass lines flowed constantly for two solid hours with ever-inventive melodies, counter rhythms, and punches. Whatever rock landed in his way, Jack easily made a new path to keep things flowing. It might as well have been Louis Armstrong playing electric bass, really. Hot Tuna’s drummer Justin Guip was excellent and followed Jack’s every move. But by midnight when the show was over, Justin needed a few minutes to himself to recover. Meanwhile, Jack and Jorma (who also had his 70th birthday party at the Beacon) ran straight to the lobby to sign posters.
The Beacon Theater on Broadway was designed in 1929 by famed Chicago architect Walter W. Ahlschlager, who also designed the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, where Sam Phillips got his start as a part-time engineer. Thanks to the Allman Brothers (who enjoyed over 200 sold out nights there) Hot Tuna, and others, the Beacon has become a destination for fans to hear their favorite musicians turn into seekers and adventurers.
Jack Casady’s birthday was actually in April but that was a minor detail. “Any excuse to celebrate is a good excuse,” said Casady before the show. And this was a serious party. Everyone on stage was after the same thing—feeling, surprise, and freedom of expression.
But the show’s heart was Jack who jumped, clawed, stuck out his tongue, and seemed to know when to turn up the heat and when to batten down the hatches. His timing, his tone, and his energy was both loose and totally dedicated. Casady’s birthday night was a tutorial in how to disassemble and re-assemble a song, something he’s been doing since he was a kid in Washington, D.C.
“My father and I built Heathkit radios and amplifiers. We built my first guitar amplifier together. He belonged to the American Jazz Society. Being in the D.C. area was a crossroads of all kinds of music. I would get on a bus and go down to Constitution Hall and hear great orchestral works when I was 15 years old. Along that time, I’d take a different bus and go see Ray Charles, the Coasters, Jackie Wilson, and all kinds of rhythm and blues at the Howard Theater.”
And it seemed all of those artists were there at the Beacon, too on Saturday night. One of the great surprises of the evening for those listening closely and not just dancing (though everybody was dancing) were the Jefferson Airplane songs, which sounded raw, punky, and full of attitude. Somehow, even “White Rabbit” has managed to get a little more scary. Hats off to Teresa Williams, who is now the custodian of the classic and managed to make it contemporary.
When Marty Balin closed the night with “Volunteers,” no one was quite sure how the band was going to wind it up, which is certainly part of its charm since it really has no ending. Finally Balin, who up to then had engaged the crowd like a classic entertainer–standing at the footlights and gesturing everybody to be a volunteer–looked at Jack, put both hands on his vocal mic, and belted a serious rock and roll scream that would have pleased and impressed Roger Daltrey (another like-aged rocker who can still deliver the goods).
After that, there was no where else for the band to go but say thank you and head down to the green room in the basement, which was packed with friends, colleagues, press, and a cake shaped like Jack’s Epiphone bass which at most recent count, powered five world tours in 2014 including Jack White, Paul McCartney (used by Brian Ray when Macca played guitar) and BritPop pioneers the Stone Roses. Casady looked at the cake and shook his head and said: “Man, what a great night.”
Out of the many 60s legends still working today who are revered for their playing style–McCartney, Pete Townshend, Carlos Santana, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton–only Casady has taken the time to become a teacher and kept his enthusiasm for discovery and re-invention. He’s also one of the few of his generation to have created an instrument from scratch. Casady has made a lot of classic records. He’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and now at 70, he’s done probably (we hope) all he’d like to do and seen the great places of the world.
“My job–and what I want my legacy to be–is to make something with universal appeal,” Casady told Epiphone. I wanted to get the instrument to where a jazz player or a pop player or a folk player or a rock player could find that instrument and work inside the instrument with their own technique. I tell my students, particularly the young ones, that there’s a certain time and a window that opens up from learning what others have played to when you start to write your own and think individually about the instrument and your own melodies and lines and music. And you need to grab that when that time goes by or you may be forever lost in a world of hearing and imitating other’s music.”
Go here to read our full interview with Jack.
Hot Tuna/Beacon Theatre/December 13, 2014
Formed in 1969 as a spin-off from Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna is led by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Cassady. The Beacon Theatre concert was billed as Cassady’s 70th birthday bash. The cast included Kaukonen and Cassady, vocalists Marty Balin and Teresa Williams, Williams’ husband, fiddler/guitarist Larry Campbell, guitarist G.E. Smith, mandolinist Barry Mitterhoff, and drummer Justin Guip. The evening started with Cassady alone, improvising on the bass. Kaukonen came on stage with an acoustic guitar and the duo segued into “Hesitation Blues.” Mitterhoff, Campbell, Smith, and Guip joined for the second song, the folk-rocking “I See The Light.” Williams lent a gospel bent with the third song, “Children Of Zion.” Balin came on stage and started an Airplane revival, leading on “3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds” and “Plastic Fantastic Lover.” Later, Williams sang lead on the Airplane’s “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit.” After intermission, Balin and his two musicians, guitarist Chuck Morrongiello and bassist Lloyd Goldstein, performed three low-key songs, then they were joined by the rest of the ensemble for a tribute song to the deceased Hot Tuna violinist “Papa” John Creach. The music stopped when what looked like Cassady’s signature bass guitar was wheeled out; it was a birthday cake. Appropriately, Williams sang the Grateful Dead’s “Sugaree.” Mitterhoff, Campbell and Smith sang lead on a few other songs as well. The concert ended four hours after it began with two encores, Balin leading a rocking version of the Airplane’s “Volunteers” and everyone singing on “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning.” The 27-song concert was packed with delightful surprises, so it was not a traditional Hot Tuna concert, but more like Jorma & Jack with friends. For the longtime fans in attendance, it was a joyous and unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime event.
By: Everynight Charley Crespo for The Aquarian Weekly, January 21, 2015
Justin Guip and Byron Isaacs providing the rhythm. Someone is celebrating a birthday on November 10th??? Come on out and celebrated with us!
Americana Artists Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams will be performing at Helsinki Hudson on Friday, October 17. They share the stage with Justin Guip on drums and Byron Isaacs on bass. All have taken the stage together in the tradition of Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band and in the Dirt Farmer Band. Show starts at 9pm.
A Star Is Born
I have known Larry and Teresa for close to a quarter of a century and being a friend of their’s watched both of their career’s evolve and blossom. Working with them on several of my own projects, I have seen them both in and out of the studio and just what seasoned and incredible players they both are.
Now in the late 70′s and 80′s I put down my guitar and stopped writing songs for a while to write for numerous Music publications penning interviews and articles to make a humble living.
I want you to understand that I am not writing this for pay nor my friendship and love for Teresa and a Larry but rather because I think it needs to be said. I was moved greatly last night by what to me could have been a religious experience of sorts.
A dear friend of mine purchased a ticket for me and took me to see Larry and Teresa perform in Tannersville for The Hunter Foundation with a new combination of players as their back up band. The band consisted of Justin Guip on drums, Glen Patsche on keyboards and Catherine a Popper on bass.
The show opened up with Teresa belting out the Rev. Gary Davis classic “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” and from that moment on I was memorized and taken under Teresa’s spell. I witnessed a metamorphosis of sorts and was hit with a ton of bricks acknowledging that Ms Williams was not part of a duo backing Larry but rather a star in her own right. The power and control of her vocals was more than impressive. Teresa has every move down on stage and comes off humorous at times telling stories about her home in Tennessee in between songs and playing and flirting with Mr. Campbell. I put Teresa right up there not only as a seasoned and extraordinary singer but a stellar performer in the ranks of Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton all rolled up into one and more. Teresa took full command of the audience and the show was very well arranged including Larry playing a song from his classic instrumental album “Rooftops” called “Blind Mary” which was flawless and a new song that Larry wrote with Julie Miller, that will be on Larry and Teresa’s long awaited recording that Larry promised, “will come out soon” called “Lonely Highway”. The band was no less than stupendous and to hear Justin in a new room and assortment of players really brought out his rock steady drumming. Glen Patsche on Hammond B3 and keyboards was simply brilliant and Catherine Popper just amazed me with her bass playing and stage presence.
Now none of this is to take away from the genius and multi talented Larry Campbell who always seems to get better and better even though many times I think that it’s not humanly possible to play that good. Campbell was the best I had seen him in years. However this was Teresa’s night.
I witnessed the birth of a star. Teresa Williams has worked extremely hard to deserve this luminous shining and people get ready when Larry and Teresa come to your town.
Charles Lyonhart 9/20/14
So great to be drumming with the incredible Larry Campbell and the amazing Teresa Williams. Catherine Popper and Glen Patscha are joining us to make it a great night of Americana Music in the Mountains! Hope to see you all there!!
Tickets on sale August 8! Show Beacon Theater, NYC – December 13 – you don’t want to miss this.
June 25 – New Haven, CT at Cafe 9
June 26 – Cambridge, MA at Atwood’s Tavern
June 27 – Nantucket, MA at The Muse
June 28 – NYC at Mercury Lounge
Photo Credit: Vernon Webb Photography
Justin Guip | Drumming with Hot Tuna – Pine Belt Arena, Jersey Shore
Want to feel it? Featuring the Incredible Teresa Williams, Larry Campbell, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen- Electric Hot Tuna.
This was so much fun jamming with Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen and Larry Campbell – Electric Hot Tuna —Funky #7.
by Frank Gutch Jr., read the full review on: No Depression
Lost Leaders – “Lost Leaders”
The Lost Leaders album is self-titled, sports fans, but it does have a track on it titled “Too Good To Be True” and there are moments when I truly believe that it is just that. I listen to music all the time and when an album like this comes along, I want to shout it to the world. I want to run out to the street and plug my earbuds into the nearest ears I can find and force them to listen. I want to get stuck in traffic, roll down the windows and crank it up. I want to throw listening parties and pay taverns I frequent to play it. I even want to learn guitar because when the music overwhelms that is always what I want to do and this is overwhelming. I love this album. I love it.
I write a column for Bob Segarini’s blog, Don’t Believe a Word I Say, and I wrote about it there. I thought about writing a review on my own pages and almost did but so few plug in that I hesitated and decided it would reach far too few. So here I am, writing it for No Depression and hoping for people to find it and pass it along because what I have to say is worth sharing.
If this album had only one song, an hour-long version of “Anything You Want To Be,” it would be worth it. I loop that song when I have to clean house or wash dishes and am constantly amazed by how it takes me back to the late-60s and early-70s, reflecting the sounds of Crazy Horse and Illinois Speed Press. The rest of the album is outstanding, but that one track— oh, man!
That column I mentioned before? Here is what I wrote:
“I took a long walk this afternoon, longer than usual. I had loaded the files sent to me by Peter Cole of Lost Leaders onto the MP3 player, Lost Leaders a band comprised of himself and Byron Isaacs (Ollabelle, Levon Helm, et. al.), and I wanted to get a good listen outside of the cave, so I headed off, the MP3 player booming the first track, Horizontal Man, into my ears. I walked and walked some more. It rained, hard for a bit, but I still walked. I walked the length of two albums and came back convinced that this will easily make my Top Ten for the year and possibly the Top Five. And there are reasons.
“For one thing, it is a production gem. Front to back, the sound is as clean as it could possibly be, even during band jams and bridges. Guitars are crisp and clean and even the fuzzed-out guitar solos (courtesy of Cole), as integral as they are to certain songs, are separated enough to allow the guitar sounds free range. The keyboards, played by guests Brian Mitchell and Jared Samuel, add real atmosphere to the songs and when the horns kick in, sadly too seldom, it is a flashback to some of my favorite horn-laden bands, starting with If (Clark Gayton, Jay Collins, Kenny Rampton: you hit all the right notes). Justin Guip masterfully recorded the tracks, including the overdubs (which were laid down at the very coolly-named The Guiping Post, but maybe I think so because that first Allman Brothers album kicked my ass halfway across the room back in the day). A nod has to go to Bryce Goggin, who mixed, and Dave McNair, who mastered.
“Musically, Lost Leaders are all over the map. Keeping Busy Feeling Fine rides the line between upbeat country and country boogie without sounding country at all, Horizontal Man is rock straight out of the 70s and is a freakin’ killer when the horns kick in (sounding a bit like Ides of March or Lighthouse, which thrills me to death) and the rhythm alone is its own ride, The Line The Lie is an acoustic/electric/vocal harmony fest of sounds and very ethereal in structure, Miracle Mile is full of twists and turns which absolutely thrill the producer and musician in me. But the real capper is the last track, Anything You Want To Be, a throwback to the bands of the late 60s and very early 70s, the guitars reminiscent of those of Illinois Speed Press in the use of controlled feedback, the free-flowing riffs a contained firefight amongst musicians and reminding me of Neil Young & Crazy Horse in terms of instrument tone. I miss the days when musicians would end songs with jams like that.”
Yup, I love this album. It will be among my top picks for this year, for sure, and I’m already jonesing for the next one. If you haven’t watched the videos, do. These guys are right up there with the best. That’s Lost Leaders, sports fans. A band to watch closely and turn your friends on to. You can quote me.
“It’s sad that The Band is no longer, that the Grateful Dead are history. But anyone who enjoyed the fruits of those musician’s for all those decades needn’t look far — there are students of that tradition with the right balance of ingredients and understanding of what those musicians had invested their time in out there. Bow Thayer continues — highly regarded — in that vein.”
by John Apice, read the full review on: No Depression
Bow Thayer and the Perfect Trainwreck – “Eden”
This review includes a parallel look at the studio album Eden and Bow’s first live album, Live at the Chandler–recorded at the sold-out Chandler Music Hall in Randolph, Ver., on January 19, 2013, where the band showcased the entire Eden album in sequence.
From its opening fiery guitars and banjos the newest Bow Thayer album Eden solidifies Bow’s place in Americana-roots-folk-rock music. Applying his signature vocal style and songwriting, Thayer hits another musical ball out of the park in a highly energized album that fits into the melodic Little Feat-Hot Tuna-the Band tradition. This new studio album was co-produced and engineered by the Grammy Award-winning Justin Guip.
Bow Thayer and his band, Perfect Trainwreck, have been praised by American Songwriter as “the best artist to come from New England in recent years,” and I agree. Never at a loss for providing just enough tease in the structure of the tunes, Eden echoes the expressive delight of what Thayer does best: playing music with the enthusiasm of an artist who has the talent and respect for the genre he mines, while injecting his own passion throughout.
The first track, “The Beauty of All Things,” is the perfect live opener. Less than 16 bars into this song, it convinces the audience this is going to be a special evening of live music. The banjo and acoustic guitars grip and never let go. Back-up vocalists lend a full measure of support and, with equal power in his vocals, you can tell that Thayer is possessed by the exhilarating arrangement and enthusiastic performance of all the musicians.
No matter how good an album is written and recorded, the true test is how it plays live, before an audience. Not all great songs in an artist’s repertoire play well live. Why? Who knows? Many of Elvis Presley’s fans asked why he never sang certain songs in his live concerts and, in a candid, rare interview years before his passing, he let his guard down and told an interviewer that there were certain songs he never felt came across effectively in a stage performance. Presley must have been right because the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia echoed the same opinion in regard to some songs that were played rarely, or not at all, during Dead concerts. They were indeed good songs; they just didn’t have the magic that made them good performance songs.
Thayer doesn’t have that issue with this collection. Surprisingly, I discovered between these two albums that Bow Thayer & Perfect Trainwreck play these tunes live, remarkably close and faithful to the studio versions.
All the nuances, intricate notes, and feeling are not lost in the live performance. They are all there, woven together as if the studio album were being played for the audience. That special relationship between the musicians and those in attendance is not lost. It’s all there. The music is tight, whimsical, with not a musician out of place. No one is jostling for space, no one is playing too slow or rushed. The atmosphere is filled with excitement.
The haunting title track “Eden“ is energetic and instantly memorable. The performance is definitely in the hands of someone who knows the musical four-post ring. Thayer knows when to jab, when to punch, clinch, and deliver the knockouts with confidence. This comes with experience and, most importantly, performing.
The live performance is also not marred by any spacious echo, big room ambiance, or extraneous audience noise. You can hear their presence and enthusiastic responses. The performance is isolated wisely from any interference. This allows a clear indication of how well these musicians interact with each other in a live environment.
There was a time bands played well, it all jelled nicely, and it was accepted. But, this is an effort in clarity, expertise and, most importantly, expressionism. The Band had it during their Last Waltz concert. Elvis had it during his Madison Square Garden and 1973 Hawaiian concerts. The Dead had it when they were firing on all cylinders. Otis Redding had it Live in Europe. It’s live magic you would have to experience to understand.
Some people may believe that Thayer, as good as he is, is basically one-dimensional in the type of roots music he writes and performs. But, one listen to “12 Inch Steel,” and that opinion would be eradicated. It’s pushing the envelope time–the way Neil Young would when he explored music in Trans and later Rust Never Sleeps. Young always was one of the most diversified, experimental songwriters who ever walked into a studio with a guitar. Thayer is not far behind. He is not shy about shaking the soda bottle and then opening it to see what happens.
But, does this music play out live?
Thayer’s voice reminds me of ultra-Christian rocker Steve Taylor on “12 Inch Steel.” Taylor was famous for his aggressiveness in tunes like “Jim Morrison’s Grave,” and Thayer certainly, without knowing it, has tipped his hat in Taylor’s direction. His voice is sharpened like a chisel. It’s an excellent slice of how a great roots musician can rock. Fiddle player Patrick Ross smokes the live version, too. Anyone who got up to go to the rest room must have come back, hopefully zipped, for this one–a real showstopper.
Having excellent intuition for pacing, the band continues the concert with a slow, moody, compelling “Parallel Lives” which, like early King Crimson compositions, has several layers. The tune includes subtitles: “Big Brass Band Theory,” “Carbon Creatures,” “Joy Ride,” and concludes with “No Defense,” which slowly changes like a chrysalis and takes many musical shapes. This is quite an endeavor.
The audience must have been listening, because it’s quiet as the fiddle and accompanying instruments surround Thayer’s vocals like an ornate frame around a painting. The song progresses into a disciplined musical break that, in itself, is a statement of concern with sensitivity rather than “talking points.” The fiddle is mournful and gripping. Again, the studio version and live version are equally compelling–no energy was lost between the performances. This suggests the artist is committed to his message, and never throws away a tune for the sake of getting to the next song.
Eden is an environmental statement, but not in your face like what politicians and advocates tend to do. There is nothing terribly controversial, though there are thought-provoking moments. There’s an opportunity for listeners to think for themselves, through the poignant notes and melody.
The job of a great musician should be to pose questions. Dylan did it on “With God on Our Side.“ I don’t hear songs like this on commercial radio. The majority of artists seem preoccupied with songs that are all gristle and no substance, all dance and no discipline, words with no potency, music with no melody, hooks with no bite. Meanwhile, a song like “Parallel Lives” does not focus on the singer, because the song is what’s important. For some, it may be too much to take in. For others, it will be like “On the Road” by Kerouac. They will keep coming back to it, to find what they may have missed the first time.
The studio version of “Parallel Lives” has really well-recorded brass to enhance the emotion. This song could very well take its place beside such classically topical, political, controversial statement-songs as Steppenwolf’s “Monster” and John Kay’s “The Wall.” Or, Dion’s “Abraham, Martin & John.” The finale is full of gentle notes cascading like water to my ears. This was not merely a song but a musical editorial polished into a high-sheen message. The composition is close to 13 minutes long and it is worth listening to multiple times. Don’t have the patience? Find some. It’s a big production number arranged in a stunning, balanced manner.
“May your dreams have mercy on you….” Indeed.
Up next: “Inside Joke.” The melody approaches from a different direction than “Parallel Lives.” This is a showcase for the brass while the voice is in that rock and roll strain that is so irresistible, surrounded by the decorated notes of a plucking melodic banjo. I guess it’s safe to say this is a banjo-oriented album supported by the unlikely “friends” of trumpet, saxophones, and cellos. It’s a nice, magical combination.
This is what makes these songs so original and fresh–even the Band did not employ much banjo in their music. The vocals never intrude. There are equal measures of milk and whiskey in every song. And, the cross-reference between the studio album and live program is an exercise in true musicianship. Not a note is out of place.
“The Tide,” recedes a little from the sting, and the band once again performs with a different focus. Here, it seems the song is built on banjo and pedal steel with a wonderful, full Hammond organ sound, with its Leslie speakers spinning and building into a tight exhilarating flurry of notes. There is absolutely nothing boring here.
The only criticism I have is that the live album–as good as it is–is a little muddier than the crisp clarity of the studio songs. But, that may be expected. Live is a different animal from studio. In a small setting, maybe a band can capture that studio sound live, but it’s not easy. The equipment is different, the engineers may be different people, the acoustics of the room are different, there are “bodies in the seats” watching, and that plays a role. However, the live versions are faithful to the originals and, if not for the direct comparison, I doubt anyone would notice.
Also, I believe the live version of “The Tide” is better, looser than the studio version. I got more excited listening to it and went back to it several times. The drums are impeccable on the live take. Jeff Berlin is quite a disciplined player here. He creates and lays down a tight percussion that is like the right tie with the right shirt and suit. The audience must have loved it, too, because they were very loud with their appreciation. It’s exciting to hear that response–like a getting a Christmas bonus in your paycheck.
“A Bad Day at the Zoo” is the tune that lightens up the seriousness and allows the musicians to perform with some humor. Bow takes a page from either John Prine’s songbook or Randy Newman’s, with some satirical, sarcastic, yet humorous lyrics: “playing with matches under plastic trees.” “Stare into the mouth of a true believer.”
Nice bass guitar and steady beat on the opening of “Trials,” is like a fat worm on a hook in front of a hungry fish. The tune builds–guitars snake around a solid Hammond moaning under the surface. These musicians are relentless with an aim that’s accurate on the finger-tapping mechanism and foot-tapping gears of your body. Who said you can’t dance to Bow Thayer? The tune is simple but, in the hands of experts, this ear candy will even get someone in a wheel chair to want to stand up and boogie. The pedal steel howls in the distance and the band thunders with this haunting wintry wall of frosty notes. I had to put a sweater on listening to this. It’s like a steam roller at the end, though.
The live version of “Trials” starts off with some cool syncopated beats and hi-hat. The audience’s howl adds gasoline to Jeff Berlin’s fire and it ignites the ears. A perfect jungle rock voice–bluesy and sweaty, down and dirty, snaky and with hints of lycanthropy. Yes, I said lycanthropy. You’d have to be a wolf to sing like this.
Sometimes the less you say, the more is said. This live version is fleshed out. It has moments where it trumps the studio version. It could be that Thayer just discovered it’s a song that works in a live setting and can cook in front of a hungry audience. This is a little performance piece–I can picture the musicians all over the stage like cannibals or natives. Barbara Smith’s saxes reminded me of the dark, powerful, sometimes scary saxophone attack David Jackson made Van der Graaf Generator famous for.
The live version of “Wreckoning” continues with a clean drum intro intercepted by guitars. With a steady, relentless hi-hat and syncopated jazzy drum drive, the tune with Thayer’s otherworldly aggressive voice, clearly shows the diversity of the program. It’s a dark blues Bob Dylan would admire, the banjo reminiscent of the great Paul Rodden–a supernatural banjo player who once performed with Frank Tovey (Fad Gadget) and laid down some incredible banjo licks.
Here, Thayer mirrors that excellence to perfection. What I really enjoy is how the banjo is tuned. It’s got some strange, energetic synergy in it. Couple that with Barbara Smith’s snarling saxes overlaid on this effort, and it’s witchy the way Jethro Tull could be in its most mythological moments. If I had to suggest this tune had any influence, I could only suggest Jethro Tull. Ian Anderson is the only person I know of who had that kind of creativity in rock. The lyrics have that Tull color, flavor, and bite. Thayer doesn’t sing like Anderson and there’s no flute, but it’s all about atmospherics, which are here in spades on this song. The tale is supernatural, the way “Aqualung” was for Tull. This may be my favorite. No one plays and writes songs like this today, with the expertise Thayer displays. Americana music reaches new levels when this degree of performance is engineered. It’s like ten Red Bulls swallowed in one sitting. I’m spent.
“Happy Ending,” is on the other side of the “Wreckoning” spectrum. This is back to the more rootsy and folky tim- to-go-home style of songwriting. The energy level is consistent, on both the studio and live performance. The poignancy and sincerity on this closing tune has the optimism that there will be more to come.
It’s sad that the Band is no longer, that the Grateful Dead are history. But, anyone who enjoyed the fruits of those musicians for all those decades needn’t look far. There are students of that tradition with the right balance of ingredients and understanding of what those musicians had invested their time in. Bow Thayer continues, highly regarded, in that vein.
Garth Hudson, I’m asking you to be on Bow’s next album. Paul Rodden, play some banjo with this fine young man and thrill us. Bruce Hornsby, add some spider finger piano to the next Thayer album. Finally, to the supporting musicians: keep pulling those rabbits from your hats. You should all be proud of the contribution you made.
The packaging for “Eden” is fine, too–a beautiful laminated tri-fold with lyric book, copy reproduced so anyone who lost their eyeglasses can still read it. I am beginning to believe that many independent artists know how to package their music better than the major record companies. Layout and design is by Hello Maseman, with the painting by Alexis Mollomo and photography by Tom McNeill. Take a bow.
Photo Credit: Rick Litvin
The Midnight Ramble Sessions, Vol. 3
The Levon Helm Band
Rock, Music, Psychedelic, Singer/Songwriter, Folk-Rock, Roots Rock, Southern Rock, Rock & Roll
Jul 1, 2014
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by Deborah Medenbach, read the full review at: Recordonline.com
Revered folk and rock musician to play Bethel Woods
The David Bromberg Band lands at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Thursday, one year after recording a new album, “Only Slightly Mad,” at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock.
Bethel Woods audiences have enjoyed Bromberg’s performances at least twice before, but his deep roots in Ulster County’s Woodstock go back four decades with deep friendships and musical collaborations.
“My time with Levon and the Band goes way back,” Bromberg said. “In the 1970s I was on the same circuit the Band was on, so we’d run into each other at gigs, stay at the same hotels and bump into each other at the same truck stops. It was funny. And Rick (Danko) was my best friend in the Band.”
He dedicates the new album to the memory of Danko, Richard Manuel and Levon Helm.
Produced by Levon Helm Band leader Larry Campbell and engineered by Justin Guip, “Only Slightly Mad” ranges over genres in 12 tracks, rolling out the a capella original “Strongest Man Alive” alongside bluesy gospel tunes “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and “I’ll Rise Again,” worthy of its dedication to the Staples Singers.
“I don’t know if (Mavis Staples) ever heard it or read that I dedicated it to her. I’ve had the privilege to meet her a few times,” Bromberg said. “I’ve been a fan of hers since the early ’60s and bought every album of the Staples I could afford.”
This is Bromberg’s third album since his 2007 return to the stage. He stopped performing in the 1980s with more than a dozen solo albums to his credit and enjoyed a second career as a fine-violin luthier and dealer in Wilmington, Del. The journey back to performing was detailed in the documentary film “David Bromberg: Unsung Treasure.”
“When I started performing again after 22 years of not doing it, I was not overwhelmed with confidence. There were only two situations where I felt comfortable. One was with my band and the other was playing with Jay (Ungar) and Molly (Mason),” Bromberg said. It was Ungar who introduced Bromberg to current manager Mark McKenna, who had a long history as a sound engineer in Woodstock.
Bromberg’s Grammy-nominated comeback album “Try Me One More Time” was followed in 2011 by “Use Me,” which featured Helm on two tracks.
For the new album and touring band, Bromberg scooped up his wife, Nancy Josephson’s, drummer Josh Kanusky from her band, Honeychild.
“There was this ad on Craigslist saying ‘Looking for Levon?’ Nancy called him and he was with her band for a few years,” Bromberg said. “Now he’s with mine.”
The David Bromberg Band includes Mark Cosgrove on guitar, Robert Butch Amoit on bass and young Delaware fiddler Nate Grower.
Justin Guip | AXS TV Concerts: Love for Levon
Justin Guip | Playing with Dirt Farmer Band – Imus in the Morning Show
Justin Guip | Recording Engineer
Justin Guip | Mixing
Justin Guip | Recording and Mix Engineer, at Levon Helm’s Woodstock, NY
Justin Guip | Recording and Mix Engineer, at Levon Helm’s Woodstock, NY
Justin Guip | Recording and Mix Engineer, at Levon Helm’s Woodstock, NY
Justin Guip | Recording Engineer, DiMenna Center for Classical Music, NYC
Justin was recording engineer and part of the production team at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York City.
Justin Guip | Drums
Justin Guip | Drums
Justin Guip | Playing with Dirt Farmer Band
Justin Guip | Recording Engineer
Justin Guip | Recording, Live Music Engineer and Production Manager
Link to Article.
Justin Guip | Recording Engineer, Drums
by Brian Robbins, read the full review at: JamBands.com
Tara Nevins – “Wood And Stone”
Sugar Hills Records
Wood And Stone finds Tara Nevins – the frighteningly-talented multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter who has co-led Donna The Buffalo for over 20 years – doing what comes naturally: being a frighteningly-talented multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter … just doing it with a different gang of folks.
You can thank Levon Helm’s Barn and its crew of talented musicians and sound shapers for the vibe of Wood And Stone. As perfect and right as Nevins sounds leading the charge of Donna the Buffalo, her music takes on the spirit of the Barn like a well-worn and cozy Gypsy jacket that was tailored to her shoulders. Check out the core band: upright bassist Byron Isaacs; Justin Guip on drums; and Larry Campbell on just about anything with strings (including some tasty citern picking, for all you citern freaks out there). All three are regulars at Helm’s Midnight Ramble concerts – and with Guip and Campbell doing double-duty (the former engineered and mixed the album; the latter produced), Wood And Stone is another example of why Helm’s studio is becoming known as the Muscle Shoals of roots music.
The title track kicks the album off with an opening snake dance between Nevins’ fiddle and Campbell’s banjo. 15 seconds in, Isaacs’ bass comes rumbling up from the Earth’s inner core, accompanied by the snap of Guip’s drums. Add in a chunky rhythm guitar figure (a la Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing”) blending nicely with the banjo’s steady tick and the fiddle’s soulful moan – and Nevins’ tale of her childhood is off and running. The sound is both loose and tight at the same time; the band knows how to walk that line and let Nevins be herself. To put it simply, it just plain works.
The arrangements themselves range from the hay bale-scorching whirling dervish of the instrumental “Nothing Really” to the Zydeco-flavored churn of “All I Ever Needed” (Nevins dons her accordion, while Campbell applies some tasteful pedal steel) to “The Wrong Side”, where Campbell’s jazzy guitar work and Nevins’ fiddle combine to conjure up the spirit of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.
Guests on Wood And Stone include Jim Lauderdale, Allison Moorer, and Teresa Williams, who all contribute vocals; Rose Sinclair on banjo for several tracks; acoustic guitarist Beverly Smith; bassist June Drucker; and Helm himself who sits in on drums for a couple of songs. (It’s a tribute to Guip’s talents that you don’t slap your forehead and say, “That’s gotta be Levon!” on the tunes with Helm behind the kit.)
The shake-your-head-and-grin musical moments courtesy of Larry Campbell are too numerous to mention – although he manages to never grandstand … he just makes things better. His playing is all over this album (catch the swap between his pedal steel and Nevin’s fiddle on “You’re till Driving That Truck” or the darkly-shimmering apocalyptic guitar on “Tennessee River”), but it always serves the song.
And that’s the deal overall with Wood And Stone – the presence of talented friends both new and old never overshadows Tara Nevins; rather, they provide the perfect background for her talent.
Justin Guip | Playing with Jorma Koukonen