Guitarist Larry Campbell has played with everyone. He was in Bob Dylan’s Never Ending Tour band, which ran from 1997 through 2004. He has played with Levon Helm, Phil Lesh, Judy Collins, Cry Cry Cry, Linda Thompson, Sheryl Crow, Paul Simon, B.B. King, Willie Nelson, k.d. Lang, Rosanne Cash, Buddy and Julie Miller, Little Feat, Hot Tuna and a host of others. He produced David Bromberg’s latest album. The list is impressive both for who is on it and the number of genres that are represented.
There is a great piece at Digital Dream Door on Campbell that was published just after he his wife, the singer/guitarist Teresa Williams, released an album. It’s somehow appropriate that Campbell, who spent much of his career as a sideman, talks about the famous musicians with whom he has played and what they meant to him.
Campbell talks about having the feeling that he had arrived as a musician when he played “Blowin’ In the Wind” with Dylan. He describes a similar reaction when he played “Hesitation Blues” with Hot Tuna, “The Boxer” with Paul Simon and (with Williams) “Attics of My Life” with Phil Lesh. The final item is especially poignant. It’s the story of Levon Helm’s last show before entering the hospital near the end of his life.
Two thoughts come through from reading about Campbell and, to some extent, watching him in clips. I have the suspicion that he likes to not the one most in the spotlight. Though he seems quite comfortable with the center position, I have a gut feeling that he is just as happy playing second fiddle.
The other reaction is far less speculative: He and Williams had a deep and personal connection with Helm. It is nicely presented in this Q&A with Williams and Campbell at Indy Week. It was a bit of a family thing. I had the pleasure of seeing Levon’s daughter, Amy, perform with Campbell at a winery on eastern Long Island a few years ago. So the family stayed together, so to speak.
Above is Williams and Campbell’s version of “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning.” Below is “Texas Crapshooter,” which Campbell attributes to Doc Watson, who he calls one of his early heroes.