TED RUSSELL KAMP
(PoMo Records/Kufala Recordings)
Ted Russell Kamp tours extensively, playing bass in Shooter Jennings' band. It brought him to Europe earlier this year, which must have been pretty interesting for him, as his father has roots in The Netherlands. Ted himself is New York-born and L.A.-based, but music from down South means a lot to him: "I'm a Northerner who's become thoroughly fascinated with Southern music. It's not a coincidence that the vast majority of my favorite records were made within a few-hundred-mile radius -- Memphis, Nashville, Muscle Shoals, the jazz and blues that evolved through New Orleans and up the Mississippi River, Dallas and Austin. It's incredible -- the passion, the storytelling and the soul that came out of that part of the country, it's a huge part of the American voice."
In less than two years Ted released three albums, yes, besides being a bassist he's also a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. "The biggest challenge has been finding a way to be myself and express myself while still supporting others. And bringing in traditional elements is a way, in my opinion, to make the music classier and more timeless, whether it's with my own music or tying it into the legacy of Waylon and Jessi with Shooter." He points to Dave Stewart and Buddy Miller as role models, in the sense that they move so seamlessly between the roles of sideman and frontman while supplying both substance and glue to every project they take on.
"Divisadero" is his latest effort, named after the street in San Francisco that was once at the edge of the city but is now smack dab in the center of a modern metropolis. "It became a symbol of change and evolution for me -- from the outside looking in, observing and trying to deal with the differences between past and present, as well as the change that is yet to come," Ted explains. "I wanted the music on this record to reflect that juxtaposition by combining inspirations from lost times with a modern perspective to create something new."
Ted's groovy music is described as "a mix of rootsrock and 70's Americana", I would prefer to call it countryrock: clear to everybody, right? From uptempo to slow and back, good guitarwork, strong drumming, pedal steel guitar parts on a few tracks -two of which played by Eric Heywood-, electric piano and hammond organ on others. "Looking For Someone" even has pedal steel plus hammond AND the harmony vocals of Jessi Colter! While "Close Your Eyes, Maria" features pedal steel plus electric piano, a pretty melodious ballad, Gina Villalobos sings harmony here, as she does on "Can't Go Back", another memorable melody. Shooter Jennings sings with Ted on "Better Before You Were Big Time" (cool title!), a big production: not only the organ and piano but also trumpet and trombone are heard. The last track is spare again, a dobro and Shooter playing keys. I think "Music Is My Mistress" has the most interesting arrangement and a really great duet vocal by Leroy Powell in a Waylon-like style. Just too bad the melody line resembles John Prine's "Paradise" a little too much!
The various influences: soul, a bit of the blues and even some jazzy touches are smartly used throughout the album. I just don't agree with one reviewer who compares "Divisadero" with the works of Nick Lowe and his Cowboy Outfit... O.K., there's a slight resemblance, in "Swinging Doors" for example, even a little in the vocal. But hey, Nick Lowe's Cowboy Outfit, that's still quite a bit out of Ted's league, actually Mr. Lowe is in a league of his own!! The recording -although done in a wild variety of places: from Ted's living room and the Shooter Jennings tour bus to room 309 of the Heartland Inn, Iowa City- sounds coherent. And let me mention all the instruments Ted himself played: guitars, bass, lapsteel, bouzouki, mandolin, accordion, wurlitzer electric piano, hammond organ, percussion, trumpet and trombone. Impressive!
The lyrics (not available in the booklet, not even on the website...) seem to revolve a lot around the theme of "life on the road": tourbuses and broken down vans, being broke, roadhouses, reviews, airports and all-night diners, motelrooms and bars plus countless one night stands!! One thing's for sure here: Ted Russell Kamp has no lack of self-confidence!
Written by Johanna J. Bodde, September 2007.