Larry Campbell was born in New York, New York, and Teresa Williams is from rural Peckerwood Point, Tennessee. They met when he was hired to play pedal steel guitar behind her at a New York gig over 25 years ago. They married in 1988 but did not perform together until they participated in Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble Band in Woodstock, New York. Otherwise, they seemed to travel in separate hemispheres, he backing Bob Dylan and others and she backing Emmylou Harris and performing her own music. They finally released a self-titled debut as a duo on June 23, 2015.
While Campbell has played many stringed instruments for other artists, at City Winery he stuck closely to his electric guitar and mandolin. Joined by keyboardist Bill Payne of Little Feat, bassist Byron Isaacs of Amy Helm’s band and drummer Justin Guip, the music ranged from straight country to honky tonk to gospel. While Campbell has spent the past 35 years as a side musician, he did well as a front person, a role he shared with Williams, and toward the end, with Payne, who led an eight-minute version of “Dixie Chicken” and also sang “Oh Atlanta.”
The set was casual yet rousing, bringing out the best in all the musicians. Williams was a graceful singer and Campbell finger-picked tastefully, and excelled in their joyous harmonies. They gently moved the set from heartfelt songs to rowdy barroom rockers with class. They were a case student of what happens when a city boy partners in music with a country girl: the songs featured the grandest elements of Americana’s deep roots while fearlessly rocking the house.