I had said that from time to time I would like to feature or profile an artist that I feel should be commemorated or profiled. Much like the piece I did about Kate Wolf. I thought that this would be a perfect time to talk about an artist that has truly captured me and, I hope, you as well.
Back in about 1999 I, reluctantly, set up an interview with her. Having seen the photo on the cover of her CD --Visions of Plenty---wherein she had what seemed to be a whole bevy of tattoos on her arms . I expected some sort of a "country rock queen". What I found just blew me away. A consummate artist with the greatest ability to translate history into wonderful music.
Not to denigrate tattoos---she did not have any. It was red henna, as she explained to me.
Kate Campbell has been a teacher of Southern History at a Southern College, she has translated her own history into a wonderful blend of music and lyrics that give us historical insights into that history and that of the South.
Her discography, for someone so young is quite impressive. Some 10, and still counting, CDs now.
I first noticed her from her Visions of Plenty CD. A brilliant piece of work that encompassed the civil rights movement, the busing she was involved in (Bus 109) that her father (a preacher and an activist) had her do. Practice what you preach. I bet she might have said "..that's what my Daddy felt". Other pieces on that CD include Visions of Plenty, Deep Tang, Funeral Food, and much more. Funeral Food is truly an all encompassing piece that can relate to people of all faiths at a time of grief.
As I said, she has quite a discography.
Moonpie Dreams came out before I knew Kate. There you find such wonderful pieces that can bring you back to another place and time. Think of the 1950s and a Ford Fairlane, See Rock City and much more. Wandering Strange is a truly interesting and unusual piece of work. Worthy of much greater attention than it has received. One of her later CDs, Blues and Lamentations is a work that may be one of the best. On this album you will hear her wonderful interpretations of folk and gospel and with a wonderful bevy of guest artists that include Guy Clark, Maura O'Connell and many more.
Which brings us to this CD---The Living Of These Days. Many, if not all, of Kate's recordings have featured Spooner Oldham and have been recorded at the historic Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama (or as Hank Williams might say---Alabam). This CD has so many meaningful songs on it that it is hard to pick any that would stand out---they all do. From the Woody Guthrie compositions to the ones done by Paul Robeson, Kris Kistofferson as well as her own compositions.
It has to be said that every now and again an artist comes down the proverbial pike that one has to perk one's ears up and say that one has just come into contact with a new force. Kate is such a force.
A final thought on Kate and her great talent. There is a piece on her album ---Monuments--Joe Louis' Furniture. If you ever want to hear a piece that, in just a few minutes, can encapsulate a dream and a life this is the one. As I said to her, in conversation, "...you and Harry Chapin have a lot in common---aside from the beat".
So---as I also said to her once---"does the name Kate have significance for great talent and insights since you and Kate Wolf share that first name".
One last thought. Her CDs are great but if you can ever see Kate on a stage it is something not to be missed. It has to be added, however, that she is one of the few artists who's recordings can make you feel, as you sit in your room listening, that you are in her presence.