Monday , May 20 2024
There's a wink and a smile behind just about all these songs -- a fizzy tonic for hard times.

Music Review: Ted Russell Kamp – Poor Man’s Paradise

Ted Russell Kamp's loose-jointed, sunny-dispositioned Southern rock/country sound has a down-home, slightly psychedelic feel. Even a song with a melancholy touch, like "Let the Rain Fall Down," gets livened up — in that case with perky brass (played by Kamp, a multi-instrumentalist, and the bass player in Shooter Jennings' band). Whether it's bright country ("Just a Yesterday Away"), stripped-down blues reminiscent of J.J. Cale ("Long Distance Man"), or a rainy-day love ballad ("Let Love Do the Rest"), there's a wink and a smile behind just about all these songs.

"Side 1" closes with a cheeky folk tale of a peripatetic ladies' man, "Ballad of That Guy," which epitomizes Kamp's sense of humor.  A general feeling of lightness hovers over most the album. But there's a good variety of subject matter in the songwriting, which has matured since his previous disc; it had good stuff but tended to be a little too self-referential.

Kamp has a knack for the effortlessly memorable line. "We had it good/Good as anybody could," he declares in "Dixie." While his voice is on the thin side, the straightforward, spacious production — despite the presence of many guest musicians, including Jennings, Mark Stuart, and Marvin Etzioni — leaves room for the feeling in the singing and the lyrics to shine forth. The epic, Springsteen-esque title track is highly emotional, and Kamp's delivery here is disarmingly affecting, but it's a rare break from the disc's overall high spirits. He even jumps into Sam Cooke/Ray Charles territory with the bouncy, soul-splattered "Never Gonna Do You Wrong."

Kamp's been around some top musical artists as a session player and touring musician, and he seems to have picked up the good stuff without the self-indulgence or self-importance that affects some in country music. This batch of songs comes straight from the heart, but without too much earnestness — a fizzy tonic for hard times.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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