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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 a Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he's a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.

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