More People Should Really Know About: Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams

Credit: Ruben Garcia

It is very easy for things to be taken for granted, particularly those things that are generationally based. This applies to music as well, particularly now that the ‘60s and ‘70s musical generation is being called up yonder. Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams are in the vanguard of ensuring continuity with what in musical terms is a golden generation, while also adding their own modern take on American roots music. Larry Campbell is a New Yorker who taught himself the music of the South and brought his particular take on Southern music to Bob Dylan, Levon Helm, David Bromberg, Little Feat, Jorma Kaukonen, and Phil Lesh as a master of  all things stringed, producer, and arranger. Larry is married to actress and singer Teresa Williams, who was born to a farming family in West Tennessee and is fiercely proud of her Southern roots.

While Larry Campbell the instrumentalist and producer and Teresa Williams vocalist may be well known to those who read album credits, they are also building a career as a root music duo. They’ve released two studio albums and one live album to date, and tour smaller American venues than they are used to when backing other artists, as they seek to build their own audience for their own take on the music of the American South. The studio albums largely feature Larry’s songs and co-writes with the likes of Julie Miller and William Bell, and interesting covers from 20th Century Southern music. The vocal lead is definitely Teresa, though Larry’s voice is heard, and the backing includes their various musical friends and members of their occasional road band. Their second album, ‘Contraband Love’, features the last session recorded by Levon Helm on a deep Carl Perkins cover, and Little Feat’s Bill Payne’s keyboards are all over both studio albums.

However, it is 2023’s recording of a 2019 live performance at Leven Helm’s Barn, ‘Live At Levon’s’, that best encapsulates what Larry and Teresa are all about. The songs are a mix of covers that give a potted history of 20th Century American music including songs by Duke Ellington, Bill Monroe, John Sebastian, Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, Rev. Gary Davis, and Louis Prima, and Larry and Teresa’s own songs. All the musicians are fired up, and you get a real sense of Larry’s instrument skills as he moves from fiddle to peddle steel, electric and acoustic guitar, and mandolin. Teresa’s vocal range is on show for all to hear as she moves between jazz, country, bluegrass, blues and country rock, as are her West Tennessee roots.

Larry and Teresa were the subject of a ten-part documentary series ‘It Was The Music’, directed by Mark Moskowitz, which celebrated the music of the ‘60s and ’70s that preserved music of an earlier era and thus not only kept the old music alive but created new music in the process. Larry and Teresa are doing that again, keeping Southern music alive in the 21st Century. Anyone who enjoys americana music owes it to themselves, and Larry and Teresa, to give their music a listen, and hopefully, if there is enough support, we will see regular UK and European tours by the pair with a full band playing in sync behind them.

About Martin Johnson 401 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.
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