The Upshot: A deeply personal delivery from the 20-year veteran of pure Americana, and one that resonates with equally deeply-felt feelings and conviction.
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Over the course of her 20 year career — one that now encompasses a remarkable 18 albums — Kate Campbell has probed the depths of the heartland and specifically the South, culling stories, anecdotes and pure and simple life lessons from the people and places she’s sung about along the way. It’s a purity of purpose that takes on literary significance, bringing her comparisons to the likes of Faulkner, Steinbeck, Flannery O’Connor and others who have helped define an American vision of decades gone by. Little wonder then that she’s earned the praises of contemporaries such as Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Nanci Griffith, Guy Clark, John Prine and others who have not only found a common bond in her music, but eagerly contributed to it as well.
Campbell’s new effort, The K.O.A. Tapes (Vol. 1), follows on the heels of her debut album by the folk supergroup of sorts, The New Agrarians, a co-op that also includes Tom Kimmel and Pierce Pettis. It is, on the surface, a solo effort, but it ultimately takes a different twist. Recorded on an iPhone 5 with two microphones set up in her living room and a few disparate locations across the country, it’ becomes an intimate, homespun affair featuring songs that illustrate various iconic environs. Campbell provides the introductions, offering a presentation that mirrors a live performance. The songs she chose for this particular showcase are particularly profound, and she does them all justice. A tender take on Richard Thompson’s wonderful “Galway to Graceland” is especially emotive, as is the song that helps start the set, a telling read of Simon and Garfunkel’s weary road song “America.” Naturally, “Me and Bobby McGhee” and “I Am a Pilgrim” find appropriate placement as well. An acoustic take on “Freebird,” the song that serenaded her at her senior prom ends the proceedings and fuels the sentiment with sublime reverence.
A handful of guests lend their talents along the way — Spooner Oldham, Missy Raines and Sally Van Meter among them — but ultimately, Campbell provides a deeply personal delivery and one that resonates with equally deeply-felt feelings and conviction. Let’s hope a Vol. 2 follows in short order.
DOWNLOAD: “America,” “Galway to Graceland,” Freebird”