Larry Campbell And Teresa Williams Step To The Mic, Together He's from New York City; she's from rural Tennessee. But the husband and wife, each known for backing up roots music's biggest stars, make it work on their new album.

Larry Campbell And Teresa Williams Step To The Mic, Together

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ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:

Larry Campbell has been one of the most in-demand musicians and producers in roots-rock for years. He's backed up Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson and many more. Now Campbell and his wife, country and blues singer Teresa Williams, are moving from the background into the spotlight. They have a brand-new, self-titled album, and Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams join me now from Nashville. It's a delight to speak to you both.

TERESA WILLIAMS: Hi, thanks for having us.

LARRY CAMPBELL: Appreciate it, Eric, thanks for letting us do this.

WESTERVELT: So let's start at the start. Let's listen to part of the first track of your album, "Surrender To Love."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURRENDER TO LOVE")

CAMPBELL AND WILLIAMS: (Singing) Tell me what you're trying to show me. Show me what you're trying to say. Baby, don't be shy 'cause I know you and I are talking about the same thing anyway.

WESTERVELT: On this album, I hear some blues, country, rock, a dash or two of gospel. Tell me about what you two listened to growing up, your influences. Larry, you first.

CAMPBELL: Well, I'm part of that generation where the big bang was February 9, 1964 on "The Ed Sullivan Show." You know what I'm talking about - The Beatles. That blew open the doors. I grew up in a household where there was constantly music on the turntable - gospel, Broadway, mariachi, grand opera and Frank Sinatra - but it never felt like mine until that event.

WESTERVELT: And, Teresa, for you, what was your musical big bang?

WILLIAMS: Well, I just grew up like Larry with music in the house all the time, but we didn't have - I could probably count on one hand the records we had in the house. We just - you didn't spend any extra money like that. We made our own music. My mother, she had a home course that she was teaching us piano from and Daddy was playing by ear in the living room on his guitar - Jimmy Rogers and Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. I mean, it was the music - we just had it going all the time. And my brother would strap a little kitchen - white kitchen radio to his belt for when we would be in the field hoeing, just me and him (laughter) hoeing corn or cotton or whatever we were having to hoe.

(SOUNDBITE OF LARRY CAMPBELL AND TERESA WILLIAMS SONG)

WESTERVELT: And, Larry, I've read you traveled in the Deep South in the '70s and you always...

WILLIAMS: It was the only way I was able to marry him, I'll say that. If he hadn't had that experience I would've thought he wouldn't have known what he was getting into with my family (laughter).

WESTERVELT: Much-needed initiation, right?

WILLIAMS: (Laughter) Exactly, exactly.

CAMPBELL: Yeah, yeah.

WESTERVELT: And you always brought along your fiddle, Larry.

CAMPBELL: I did, yeah. As long as I had that fiddle I was OK. You know, there was definitely an air of suspicion when I'd get into a certain area. Oh, who's this boy from New York, you know? And, I mean, I do remember specific incidents where I could feel the tension and then I'd play a fiddle tune and things would start relaxing.

(SOUNDBITE OF LARRY CAMPBELL AND TERESA WILLIAMS SONG)

WESTERVELT: How important were the jam sessions at the barn and home of the late, great Levon Helm, the Midnight Rambles? I mean, before that you guys had - had largely had separate careers. Did those rambles finally inspire you to collaborate?

CAMPBELL: In a simple sense, yes. I mean, we met playing music together, but, you know, I was on the road with Bob Dylan for a long time. Teresa was out doing her thing, and as soon as I left Bob's band I got a call from Levon to come up. And he was just getting his voice back and was starting to do music every weekend at his barn and...

WESTERVELT: He'd had some medical problems before then.

CAMPBELL: He did, yeah. He had throat cancer. And it was the beginning of an eight-year stretch where everything that we ever wanted to do as musicians or performers was right there.

WILLIAMS: Ego - too much ego didn't last very long up there. If anybody came up flashing around too much ego, you kind of didn't see them around anymore. It was kind of like music utopia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOWN ON MY KNEES")

CAMPBELL: (Singing) I woke up alone today, a dream by my side.

WESTERVELT: Larry, you worked as a band leader, producer, lead guitarist for decades, but this is the first time you've really been front and center.

CAMPBELL: It really is. And it's something I never had much ambition for, but when I did start singing with Teresa, it was a new experience for me, and I started really digging it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOWN ON MY KNEES")

CAMPBELL AND WILLIAMS: (Singing) Maybe you love me.

CAMPBELL: And I began writing songs, and though I never was aspiring to do it, I want to follow this road as long as it'll (laughter) as long as a road, you know - until it walks off a cliff, I guess.

WESTERVELT: Was it a challenge to keep your relationship and marriage strong while you guys were separated on the road for so much time? I mean, Larry you were with what was called The Never Ending Tour by Bob Dylan. That might've been the never see your wife tour.

CAMPBELL: Well, yeah, it was - that was eight years with Bob...

WILLIAMS: Oh, I was started before that.

CAMPBELL: But it did, yeah. I mean, I was out on tour a lot. In fact, before I started in Bob's band, I had pretty well sworn off the road. I was just going to stay in New York, be a studio musician and produce records. And then I get this call from Bob, which I initially turned down, but then the next day I said wait a minute.

WILLIAMS: (Laughter).

CAMPBELL: You know, what did I do? This is Bob Dylan, you know? And I called his manager back and said you know what? Yeah, maybe I'll do this (laughter) and - but, yeah, it was challenging, but Teresa and I have been married 27 years now. And it's - I think it's been relatively smooth.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIDNIGHT HIGHWAY")

CAMPBELL AND WILLIAMS: (Singing) And all I want to do is walk down the road that leads home to you.

WILLIAMS: Being separated was difficult. You know, it's ups and downs, but the music has always held us together. We kind of both say that. That's how we met and it's really kind of held the glue - that's been our glue. We're kind of better when we are working together than when we're not (laughter).

CAMPBELL: Yeah, it's true. Music is the only time she'll ever listen to me, you know?

WILLIAMS: (Laughter).

CAMPBELL: But...

WILLIAMS: Amiable fights.

CAMPBELL: Yeah, right.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAMS: We like the same music, you know, that helps.

WESTERVELT: Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, their new album is "Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams." They joined us from Nashville. It was a pleasure speaking with you guys. Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

CAMPBELL: Oh, a pleasure, Eric, thanks for having us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIDNIGHT HIGHWAY")

CAMPBELL AND WILLIAMS: (Singing) Now I've seen fame and wealth untold...

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