Renowned musician and producer Larry Campbell and singer-guitarist Teresa Williams have had the types of careers that many of their peers would kill for. Together and separately, the couple has worked with some of the biggest talents in the music world from the past half century; names like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon are on the list of artists that Campbell and Williams’ work has touched over the years.
So after winning multiple Grammy Awards and playing the hallowed stages of the world’s best-known venues, there was only one thing left for the musical duo to do.
Release a debut album.
The married couple has hit the road headlining a major tour for the first time, all in support of their self-titled disc. Released just last month, the album was years in the making, which Campbell explains when asked why performers of their caliber are out playing small venues in support of the disc.
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“Basically because we finally got it done,” he says. “At the end of 2004 I left Bob Dylan’s band, and Teresa was finishing up a run performing in a play about the Carter Family, and we were trying to figure out what we were going to do. Levon Helm called and before we knew it we were in a band with him, which was a wonderful thing from beginning to end. Teresa and I have been singing together since the day we met, but during that time with Levon we sort of honed what it is that we do now, and we always had been thinking, ‘We need to put out a CD, we have to get a record done.’ But because of other obligations it just sort of kept falling between the cracks. Soon after Levon died, it gave us the impetus to finish it.”
Campbell and Williams embody one of the longest and most successful current partnerships in the music industry. It was a relationship born out of professional necessity one night in New York City, and it quickly blossomed into something more personal.
“We met in 1986,” Williams says. “I was doing a gig at the Bottom Line in New York, and I need some country players, which I thought at the time was an oxymoron until I quickly found out I was wrong.”
“A mutual friend of ours put us together for that gig, and two years later we were married,” Campbell notes.
The work they did as part of Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band remains a fan favorite. Midnight Rambles, a series of concerts held at Helm’s small studio in Woodstock, N.Y., several times a month for many years, drew fans from across the country. The years spent working with the legendary former drummer for The Band allowed the duo to embrace several musical philosophies that they hope to incorporate into their own live shows.
“When we all started playing together, the experience of playing music was distilled down to its essence, which is the joy and communal experience of making music,” Campbell explains. “The pervasive feeling that Levon lended to everyone in the band, as well as to the audience, was that we were all in this together. We were all there doing what we were doing because we loved it, and we’re just trying to spread the joy and healing energy of music still.”
Where to sell CDs?
With their years of performance experience, there aren’t many things that Campbell and Williams haven’t witnessed on the concert trail, but the economic changes within the music industry affected them the same as any other performer hustling from one gig to the next. Williams in particular says the biggest surprise she has found is a problem that affects every small-town music lover.
“We’ve sold a bunch of CDs at the shows so far,” Williams says. “You know who is selling the CD in my hometown? My cousin’s hair salon. There is no music store in my hometown anymore, and this is the first time that I can remember no stores offering music for sale.”
Looking ahead, with the current tour wrapping up shortly after their Raleigh stop at Southland Ballroom on Saturday, Campbell still finds it hard to believe that everything has worked out as well as it has with their project. Effusive critical praise has been lavished upon the album since its release, their live shows have been lauded, and they are set to take to the road once again to accompany Jackson Browne as both opening act and band members during his fall tour.
The three-time Grammy-winning producer thinks back to how this all began and finds their new venture’s success staggering.
“Personally, the goal was just to get the record done,” Campbell says. “I’ve kind of got to feel like, since we’ve already reached that goal, we are already a success.
“Everything that has happened after the album was released is just icing on the cake.”
Who: Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, with The Band of Heathens
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Southland Ballroom, 614 N. West St., Raleigh
Info: 919-821-0023 or southlandballroom.com