Kate Campbell is the kind of artist who steps to the beat of a different drummer. Over the course of 20+ years (since her award-winning debut album Songs from the Levee) she has resisted the temptation to follow musical trends but instead chooses to set the pace for her unique musical journey. This distinction is palpable in her latest release, The K.O.A. Tapes (Vol. 1), in which many of the basic tracks were recorded in her living room on her iPhone, including the revered Southern rock anthem “Freebird.”
Kate’s endearing, clear-water vocal delivery and her eloquent gift for storytelling have drawn repeated comparisons to such bastions of the Southern literary tradition as Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, and William Faulkner. Her easy command of a full range of American musical styles has earned Campbell recognition as a formidable talent by critics. Time Out London proclaimed her a “major talent” while Chicago Daily Herald described her as a “world-class singer-songwriter.” Perhaps Roots Time best summarized the extensive arc of Kate’s 18-album career by stating, “What a great talent Kate Campbell represents is made clear by the legends in music that appear as guest artists on her albums.” Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Nanci Griffith, Guy Clark, Maura O’Connell, John Prine, Mac McAnally, Buddy Miller, Spooner Oldham, and the heart of the Muscle Shoals classic soul and R&B hit-making machine are both admirers and collaborators in her distinctly literate musical vision.
Originally from the Mississippi Delta and the daughter of a Baptist preacher, Kate’s formative years were spent in the very core of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, and the indelible experiences of those years have shaped her heart and character as well as her songwriting. Her music and songs continue to inspire and excite a growing and engaged audience. Her Two Nights in Texas CD received the prestigious Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters Award. Ballet Memphis featured several tunes from her song catalog as well as a live performance by Kate and band at a ballet entitled South Of Everywhere. Two of Kate’s songs (“Ave Maria Grotto” and “William’s Vision”) were recently featured in documentary films (Brother Joseph and the Grotto and Chipping Away) about Brother Joseph Zoettl, the tiny Bavarian hunchback monk who built Ave Maria Grotto, and William Edmondson who was the first African American to be awarded a solo show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. A variety of artists have recorded Campbell’s songs including Laurie Lewis, Ronnie McDowell, and the Nashville Bluegrass Band who covered her compelling snake-handling song “Signs Following.”
Campbell has performed at a number of esteemed venues such as the Cambridge Folk Festival, Merlefest, Philadelphia Folk Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival, Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, and the National Storytelling Festival and been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Live From Mountain Stage, and The Bob Edwards Show. Her quirky song “When Panthers Roamed In Arkansas” was included in the debut issue of The Oxford American‘s ultra-hip Southern Music series.