POSTED ON DECEMBER 8, 2010:
More than a Side Man
Ted Russell Kamp stands on his own with Poor Man's Paradise
When Ted Russell Kamp arrives at The Hunt Club this Thursday, Dec. 9, it will be in a different role than the last time he stopped in Tulsa. As bass player for Shooter Jennings, Kamp has been through Tulsa and performed at Cain's Ballroom as a side man and accompaniment. What most people didn't realize, however, was that he has a career path of his own that diverges from the outlaw country and Southern rock of his gig with Jennings.
Fortunately, Kamp's schedule with Jennings has allowed him to swap back and forth between band duties and performing as a solo artist, allowing him to enjoy the best of both worlds.
"I met Shooter in 2004, when I was playing bass in multiple bands and working on my own stuff as well," Kamp said. "I told him 'If you want a bass player that just gets stoned and plays along, that's not me. If you want someone who knows what to do and what he wants to do, though, I'm your guy...'"
Six years later, Kamp is firmly entrenched in Jennings' band as bassist and studio multi-instrumentalist, even contributing to the songwriting on each record. In fact, Kamp's song "Steady at the Wheel," which appeared on Jennings' first album, was a No. 1 single on the Texas music charts for nearly two months.
Whereas Jennings' forte is country and southern rock, Kamp's solo work falls distinctly more in the singer/songwriter realm. Sure, there are touches of country and Southern rock, but Kamp's love of soul music and the Stax and Motown movements also come ringing through in his solo work.
Perhaps it's a touch ironic that a kid that grew up in New York fell in love with the music of artists like Guy Clark, Dough Sahm and primary influences Kris Kristofferson and Leon Russell, but that's all part of Kamp's story.
"Oh, he's a big influence," Kamp said of his love for Russell's work. "I love Leon and all of the Shelter Records stuff. Each of my records has a few blatant nods to my love of Leon."
Even so, when listening to the cuts on Poor Man's Paradise, it's easy to see why it has received such a warm reception since its release in February 2009. A touch of soul adds warmth to the country tinge of Kamp's introspective, Americana leanings on one of his more personal and introspective discs to date. Delving back further into his catalogue reveals more blues, honky-tonk and soul, depending on the album.
"What I love to do is try to record a new disc each year and document who I am that year," Kamp said. "I think the last three have really showed who I am."
"I live in a space that falls somewhere between country and soul, blues and gospel and I want my music to do that: ride somewhere in the middle," Kamp said when explaining where he comes from musically.
When listening, it does just that: a touch of Bakersfield is countered by healthy doses of Little Feat and Memphis Soul, the likes of Waylon and Willie balanced with Leon Russell and Buddy Holly.
It may sound a little confused and jumbled on paper, but when it comes together musically, it all makes perfect sense. Perhaps more appropriately, it makes perfect sense that he should finally bring his solo act to Tulsa. After all, his solo work shares more than a passing appreciation of Leon Russell and the classic Tulsa Sound. If anything, he has incorporated much of what he learned from those older Shelter Records artists into his own work, balancing a spectrum of influences.
In fact, that's balancing act is exactly what the bulk of Kamp's career has entailed over the years. Not only does Kamp play with Jennings as well as work on his one solo material, but he also spends a few weeks each year in Nashville writing for a publishing deal he has, submitting songs which he says Nashville calls "a little left of center."
Although Kamp admitted those songs and co-writes tend to lean somewhere "between commercial and potentially to syrupy," he still tries to be real and stay true to his own ideals when writing.
That probably comes across more in his solo material, however, as Kamp consistently produces an eclectic blend of blues, rock, gospel, country and soul and he tries to balance his more introspective, personal songs with a few lighter, fun tunes.
When Kamp arrives in Tulsa for a string of three Oklahoma shows (one here at the Hunt Club on Thursday, followed by Pryor on Friday and Ardmore on Saturday), before a Texas run, he'll be performing with Travis Kidd's band backing him up.
"That's usually what happens," he said of his live performances. "I know a lot of good musicians, so like my Texas run, I'll play three or four solo, then play a few with people I know."
After spending an afternoon in rehearsals, Kamp will share the spotlight with Hurricane Mason and Travis Kidd opening the show at Hunt Club before taking over with his own material. Don't be surprised, however, if the evening develops into a jam session between the three before everything ends, however.
You also shouldn't be surprised if this Hunt Club gig proves to merely be a jumping off point for Kamp in Tulsa. With his solid songwriting and eclectic blend of influences, he seems a natural fit for the Tulsa music scene -- combining a sense of history and appreciation of the classic Tulsa Sound with his one take on Americana, soul and blues.
Once he has established himself here, Kamp could quickly be moving up to larger clubs as a local favorite, making this week's show the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with Kamp outside of his work with Shooter Jennings.
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