Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams :: 2015.11.03 :: Brooklyn Bowl

Posted on Monday November 9th in

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A Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams concert on an otherwise nondescript Tuesday night? More like a master class in Americana from one of the genre’s vanguard couples. And that’s “genre” with air quotes — a helpful organizer to describe the dominant roots, folk and country strains in Campbell and Williams’ music but hardly a set of boundaries when there’s that much talent up on the stage.

Throughout a detailed and richly entertaining set, Campbell and Williams touched country boogies and sad-eyed waltzes, outlaw tunes and frisson-filled gospel, honky tonk and hootenanny. They harmonized and lead, tagged in different stringed instruments, engaged with a crack rhythm section of bassist Byron Isaacs and drummer Justin Guip — fellow alumni from Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles who know this territory as well as the band principals do.

It was a marvel of pacing, from the opening one-two of “Surrender to Love” and “Ain’t Nobody for Me” to the Louvin Brothers, Bill Monroe and “Samson & Delilah,” the latter delivered as a duo – Campbell strumming, Williams testifying. And that was all before special guest Tony Trischka, a legend of the banjo, slid in to steer the set into bluegrass territory, duetting with Campbell’s fiddle on a foot-stomping, soul-lifting medley of classics that included a dramatic “Jerusalem Ridge.” For all the special guests Campbell and Williams might have entertained – their resumes and shared history suggest almost no one would be all that surprising – Trischka was a glove-fit, entering the couple’s framework with the grace of a peer and the warmth of a friend.

As numerous interviews following their self-titled album this year have noted, it took a while for Campbell and Williams to get around to playing together as bandleaders. The album and shows prove they’ve saved the best of themselves for this expression – let’s hope for more.

Early arrivals were treated to Cosmic Twang, a collection of players that are regulars at Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads in California and who played a thrilling set of psychedelic country and roadhouse tunes as if it was just another night at that musical temple. Ross James and Scott Law lead the group, but tonight’s installment expanded to eight players, including Jason Crosby on fiddle Jon Graboff on pedal steel and Scott Metzger on a third guitar. It wasn’t overkill at all – rather, an East Coast version of Terrapin’s “hey, you’re here, grab an instrument” vibe. And while they were in sync throughout, a version of the Byrds’ “Mr. Spaceman” had the best of their goods on display.

 

—Chad Berndtson | @cberndtson

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