Larry & Teresa:
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.
“Yeah,” Larry says with a smile. “I’m proud of our debut, 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.”
Leslie Mendelson is touring in support of Love & Murder—the singer/songwriter’s first new album in eight years. A stirring work instilled with emotional depth that Glide Magazine declared “one of the best records of 2017,” the effort is the long-awaited follow up to her Grammy Award-nominated debut, Swan Feathers. It’s an apropos title, reflecting the dichotomy between the dark and light she encountered in those years between. Climbing the ranks in 2009 with comparisons to Carole King and Rickie Lee Jones on the tip of tastemakers’ lips, Leslie would go through a series of professional and personal trials that led to stints living in London and later San Francisco before settling down in Brooklyn. She ultimately recommitted to herself and slowly but surely penned the songs with her longtime co-writer Steve McEwan that would become Love & Murder.
Produced by Mark Howard (Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams), Love & Murder is a sparse, raw collection of ten folk songs. Opening with “Jericho,” a haunting number that sets the tone for what’s to come, it makes clear that the album lies more within darker spaces that artists like Sharon Van Etten, Lana Del Rey and Dusty Springfield inhabit. Songs like “Murder Me,” “Coney Island,” and “Chasing the Thrill” find Leslie exploring loss in ways that feel personal and metaphorical, where the stories within are multifaceted. She also recorded three covers: the classic-country infused “Cry, Cry Darlin’,” a take on Bob Dylan’s classic “Just Like a Woman,” played on the ukulele, and a duet with The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir on Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou.” In fact, Mendelson was unwittingly adopted by the West Coast jam scene after Weir heard her take on “Friend of the Devil” and recruited her to perform with him.
On Love & Murder, however, Leslie Mendelson offers a different side of her artistry that isn’t present in her early work or recent collaborations. “This collection is just about the songs and my voice,” she says. “That's what people can connect with. It shows where I am right now as an artist and where I want to go.”
“Chasing The Thrill” (Official Video) https://youtu.be/j72FfNC5noM
“Love You Tonight” (Live Performance) https://youtu.be/cYG1tkSREsw
“Jericho” (Live Performance) https://youtu.be/XYdCOPg_Keo
"'Love & Murder' marks a poignant return for New York singer/songwriter Leslie Mendelson" - ALL MUSIC
"Her first album in eight years, Leslie Mendelson's 'Love & Murder' is also one of the best records of 2017." - GLIDE MAGAZINE
"This kind of comeback reaffirms the faith that Joel Dorn and so many others placed in her. As such, it is already a worthy contender for year-end acclaim. Don’t wait for those kudos to emerge, however—dive in now." - BLURT