Lucy Kaplansky is a rare vocal talent, “a truly gifted performer…full of enchanting songs” (The New Yorker). Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams are an Americana duo. He’s known as a passionate songwriter and skilled multi-instrumentalist, she has a knack for clear-toned harmonies.
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“A truly gifted performer with a bag full of enchanting songs.” The New Yorker
“Kaplansky weaves fragile lives together, making even tenuous connections as palpable as flesh and blood.”
“New York songwriter Lucy Kaplansky is becoming the troubadour laureate of modern folk.” (The Boston Globe)
She started out singing in Chicago folk music clubs as a teenager. Then, barely out of high school, Lucy Kaplansky took off for New York City. There she found a fertile community of songwriters and performers—Suzanne Vega, Steve Forbert, The Roches and others. With a beautiful flair for harmony, Lucy was everyone’s favorite singing partner, but most often she found herself singing as a duo with Shawn Colvin. People envisioned big things for them; in fact, The New York Times said it was “easy to predict stardom for her.” But then Lucy dropped it all.
Convinced that her calling was in another direction, Lucy left the musical fast track to pursue a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Upon completing her degree, Dr. Kaplansky took a job at a New York hospital working with chronically mentally ill adults, and also started a private practice. Yet she continued to sing. She harmonized on Colvin’s Grammy-winning “Steady On,” and on Nanci Griffith’s “Lone Star State of Mind” and “Little Love Affairs.” She also landed soundtrack credits, singing with Suzanne Vega on “Pretty in Pink” and with Griffith on “The Firm,” and several commercial credits as well—including “The Heartbeat of America” for Chevrolet.
Then Shawn Colvin—who was itching to produce a record—hooked up with Lucy, her ex-singing partner. They went into the studio, and when Lucy’s solo tapes got into the hands of Bob Feldman, president of Red House Records, he was blown away. Suddenly, Lucy was back in the music business. She signed with Red House Records and started playing gigs. Red House released The Tide in 1994 to rave reviews, and within six months Lucy signed with a major booking agency—Fleming Artists—and began touring so much it required leaving her two psychologist positions behind.
Lucy’s second album, Flesh and Bone (1996), emphasized her development as a gifted songsmith. Then Lucy’s success took flight with back-to-back hit albums Ten Year Night (1999) and Every Single Day (2001). Both received the AFIM award (Association For Independent Music) for Best Pop Album of the year. Lucy also contributed her story to a unique book, SOLO: Women Singer- Songwriters in Their Own Words, which includes some of the best known women on the music scene today: Ani DiFranco, Shawn Colvin, Sheryl Crow, Jewel, Sarah McLachlan and others. She was also featured in Lipshtick, a collection of essays by NPR commentator Gwen Macsai, published in the fall of 1999.
In 1998 Lucy teamed with Dar Williams and Richard Shindell to form supergroup Cry Cry Cry, and recorded some of their favorite songs written by other artists.
In 2011 Lucy released an EP, Kaplansky Sings Kaplansky, featuring songs written by her father, famed University of Chicago mathematician Irving Kaplansky, including live performances of the two of them performing together in California.
Lucy’s September 2018 release, Everyday Street, is a stunning collection of songs weaving stories of joy, friendship, family, loss and discovery. It is somewhat of a departure sonically: stripped down, spontaneous, acoustic, with the feel of one of her concerts. The songs were recorded over four days with her long-time collaborator Duke Levine on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandola, National guitar, and octave mandolin, and Lucy on acoustic guitar, mandolin and piano. These are genuine performances, many were captured in one take.
Lucy continues to tour and receive airplay both nationally and internationally. Her CD Ten Year Night is the #1 selling album of all time at Red House Records.
Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams
Multi-instrumentalist-singer-songwriter Larry Campbell and singer-guitarist Teresa Williams’ acclaimed eponymous 2015 debut, released after seven years of playing in Levon Helm’s band – and frequent guesting with Phil Lesh, Little Feat, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, brought to the stage the crackling creative energy of a decades-long offstage union. A whirlwind of touring and promo followed, and when the dust cleared, the duo was ready to do it all again. Which brings us to Contraband Love, a riskier slice of Americana.
Larry, who produced Contraband Love, says, “I wanted this record to be a progression, bigger than the first one. That’s all I knew. I wanted the songwriting to be deeper, the arrangements more interesting, the performances more dynamic. Specifically how to get there, I didn’t know. I did know the songs were different. The subject matter was darker than anything else I’ve written.”
“More painful!” Teresa says, and laughs.
“I’m proud of our debut,” says Larry, “but I felt like the songs were lighter than what I’m capable of doing. As a songwriter, I aspire to a sense of uniqueness: this is a great song and it could only have been written by me. I want to get there. It’s a journey, a goal, a pursuit. The mechanics of that pursuit are figuring out what you need to do to surpass your last body of work.”
Although it was not his conscious intent, three of the eight tunes Campbell penned for Contraband Love deal either obliquely or directly with various emotions surrounding addiction. For the blues rocking “Three Days in A Row,” he authoritatively delves into the crucial first seventy-two hours directly following an addict going cold turkey in an effort to get clean. “I was thinking about the things I’ve quit in my life,” he says. “The last time was cigarettes. I remembered the dreams I had in withdrawal.” Vintage-sounding country nugget “Save Me from Myself” (featuring Little Feat’s Bill Payne on piano) explores a troubled soul’s heartrending knowledge that they are hard to love. “I’ve certainly felt both sides of that situation,” Larry says, “and observed it many times.” Delicate waltz “Contraband Love,” a captivating vocal showcase for Teresa, takes on the other side of the story, when a parent (or spouse, or friend, etc.) realizes their only recourse for dealing with an addict is merely to stand “with arms wide open.” Of this remarkable piece, Larry says, “That melody would not leave me alone. It’s one of the more unique songs I’ve ever written.”
Musically, Contraband Love revisits the Americana textures of the duo’s debut, deftly channeling Memphis, Chicago, the Delta and Appalachia with equal assurance. Larry’s world-famous guitar work – scorching here, funky there, stellar always – punctuates the proceedings with riveting emotion, often like a third voice weighing in on a myriad of emotional states.
Contraband Love stands as a new, bolder chapter in a story that arose triumphantly joyous from loss. “When Levon died,” Teresa says, “that put Larry into high gear. He’d already had his head set about making a record, but then it felt like a train took off! We just said, ‘life is short.’”