Concert Highlights: Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, 4/8/2015

“Larry courted me with a Louvin Brothers mix tape,” said Teresa Williams last week at the beginning of her showcase set at Rockwood Music Hall with husband Larry Campbell. “Talk about romance!”

That was some 25 years ago—which helps explain both the funny marital banter (“Twenty-three percent of my time is spent waiting on her,” said Larry Campbell. “My father said when I got married to be on time for it to work,” said Williams. “It didn’t sink in,” said Campbell.) and the couple’s perfect duet singing.

As for the Louvins, if not a brothers vocal blend, the pair’s second-nature harmonizing came easy on “You’re Running Wild,” the Brothers’ 1956 Top 10 country hit, that is on Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, their debut album coming out June 23 on Red House Records. As for Williams, she epitomizes the Americana genre as a singer, able to hold a note forever while subtly modifying its tone or just belt it out and let it go.

And as for Campbell, well, his pedigree precedes him, as everyone at Rockwood well knew.

“I spent a lot of years on the road with Bob Dylan,” he said matter of factly but not without understood weight. “In many ways that deserves a round of applause.”

Clearly, he was happier with the ensuing seven years of working closely with another noteworthy Dylan accompanist, The Band’s Levon Helm: “We’d talk about our experiences [with Dylan] for hours. It was very interesting.”

Very understated. So was his solo acoustic guitar play on Irish composer/harpist Turlough O’Carolan’s “Blind Mary,” which he included on his 2005 solo acoustic guitar album Rooftops, which will be reissued shortly. Campbell prefaced it by noting how he learned it during the nights when he locked himself in the tour bus bathroom after Dylan gigs, then practiced for hours while working off leftover energy from the shows.

It was only fitting that Campbell and Williams included Johnny Cash’s “Big River,” since they make the same kind of beautiful music together that Cash did with his wife June Carter Cash.

Here’s a performance of a classic blues included in Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams:

Concert Highlights–Carlene Carter at the Cutting Room, 6/12/14

Carlene Carter sang “Me and the Wildwood Rose” midway through her set at the Cutting Room last night. It’s a song from her 1990 album I Fell in Love, which she wrote about traveling as a child with her grandmother, Mother Maybelle Carter, her mother June Carter Cash and aunts Helen and Anita Carter—then billed as Mother Maybelle & the Singing Carter Sisters—and her own little sister, Rosie.

In a big shiny car we’d head down the road
To sing for the miners who brought out the coal
Many a time I slept on the floorboard cold
On a quilt with my little sister
The Wildwood Rose

“It has a lot more meaning for me now that they’ve all passed on,” she said. But with her great new album Carter Girl (I should know. I wrote the liner notes.) she’s taken on the honor and responsibility of continuing the historic Carter Family tradition while adding to it.

She’s focusing on Carter Girl, of course, on her current tour. Accompanied by her longtime guitarist Sean Allen on guitars and lap steel, and on the album’s duets, husband Joe Breen, Carlene played acoustic guitar, autoharp and piano, standout songs from the album including first single “Little Black Train,” “Blackjack David” (Kris Kristofferson sings on the album version), “Troublesome Waters” (Willie Nelson) and her adaptation of the Carter Family’s “Lonesome Valley” (“Lonesome Valley 2003,” with Vince Gill, evoking the passing of her mother and stepfather Johnny Cash).

The Carter Family was further represented by Carlene’s version of “My Dixie Darlin’,” which she had also included in I Fell In Love, and she encored with her own big country hit from that period, “Every Little Thing.”

Speaking of which, she acknowledged that she had “tried all kinds of different things in her career—and I mean that: all kinds of different things!” and hinted at some of them at the start when she announced, “Don’t be scared. I’ve got underwear on tonight! Things do change.”

But her unchanged talent notwithstanding, the laughter turned to tears when she said, also of “Me and the Wildwood Rose,” how she thinks of her departed Carter girls everyday.

“I’m so lucky to still be here and play and be with friends,” she said. “I’m going to start to cry,” she added, and did—then finished, most appropriately and effectively, with the family’s signature hymn “Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By).”