Release Date: September 23, 2003
Twang On A Wire is a CD of cover songs that Kate learned to play as a teenager when she first started playing guitar.
Twang On Wire features Kate singing with Kevin Gordon, Will Kimbrough, and Jeff Finlin.
“Campbell moves away from being measured by her influences and toward standing shoulder to shoulder with them.” – Brian Baker, Country Standard Time
From the Original CD Liner Notes by Jim Musser
Combining the sharply focused observational skills of a born storyteller, a profound grasp of the sometimes uneasy co-existence of the physical and spiritual worlds, a passion for history that explores the effects of big events upon small lives, a gently provocative sense of humor, an effortless command of folk, rock, country and R&B, and the honey-cured vocal instrument with which to bring it all home, Kate Campbell is, clearly, the total creative package.
Since debuting in 1995 with the shimmering Songs From The Levee, the Mississippi and Tennessee bred artist has delivered a steady, unbroken string of remarkable original recordings that have placed her at the very forefront of contemporary singer/songwriters.
Moonpie Dreams (1997), Visions Of Plenty (1998), Rosaryville (1999) and Monuments (2002) (separately and of-a-piece) continued Campbell’s tireless search through her experience, dreams and the memories caught in-between to make sense of (and find solace in) what the Drive-by Truckers’ Patterson Hood has eloquently referred to as “the duality of the Southern thing.”
To further her quest, Kate hopped a train on a nearby sidetrack for 2000’s Wandering Strange, an elegant, thoroughly grounded statement of faith that deftly collated and intermingled centuries-old hymns and Biblical parables with multi-hued gospel fervor, the painfully recurring lessons of racism, a leavening dash or two of whimsy and (gasp!) strutting Rhythm & Blues.
Sprawling and yet undeniably coherent, Kate Campbell’s artistic vision has always been (and will forever remain) firmly rooted in The Heart.
With Twang On A Wire, the singer has (with the lone exception of the closing title track) temporarily set aside her own formidable songwriting to salute a dozen singles – culled from the years 1968-1975 – that not only signaled a collective breakthrough by women in Nashville at the time, but simultaneously served as the very core inspirations that would set Campbell herself on the path to a career in music.
At once an aural love letter to her fans, a heart-rending packet of fan mail to the original creators of these enduring tunes and a tender, revealing look back at a young girl with a dream, Twang On A Wire is a passionate collage that celebrates an inclusive, empowering, sing-along approach to mainstream hit-making that is all but gone from the current Nashville scene.
“I made this record because these were the songs I was listening to when I first began to play the guitar,” says Kate. “These were the records that I owned – that I played in my room. You could sing along with them; they were meant to be sung along with. Everybody knows them and knows all the words.
“It’s kind of amazing that they were even done,” she marvels. “Women were so outnumbered then – still are, at least in terms of the actual number of songs recorded in Nashville.”
Instead of attempting to re-create the often-lush, 70s-era sound of the originals, Campbell hand-picked a sizzling, copacetic core group drawn from today’s folk, alt-country and roots-rock arenas, and produced the disc herself.
“I’m not trying to do these like they did ‘em in Nashville in 1973,” she insists, “I want to do them pretty raw, with kind of a combo/drum sound.”
(drums, percussion, backing vocals) – A fine pop/Americana singer/songwriter in addition to being an ace tub-thumper, Finlin recorded two albums with The Thieves (on Capitol), performed with the legendary Bis-Quits and has made several solo discs, including, Highway Diaries, Original Fin and Somewhere South Of Wonder.
(acoustic and electric guitars, backing vocals) – This Louisiana-born roots-rocker is a graduate of the University Of Iowa’s fabled Writers’ Workshop In Poetry, has performed at New Orleans’ Jazz & Heritage Festival and has two stunning discs on Shanachie – Cadillac Jack’s #1 Son and Down To The Well.
(bass) – One of Nashville’s hippest, most in-demand bassists, Jacques’ voluminous list of credits includes sessions with John Prine, Allison Moorer, Patty Griffin, Keith Sykes, Lonesome Bob, Duane Jarvis, Vince Bell, R.B. Morris, Tim Carroll and Amy Rigby.
(acoustic and electric guitars, dobro, mandolin, piano, accordion, Wurlitzer, banjo, backing vocals) – Following two discs with Will & The Bushmen, Kimbrough joined The Bis-Quits, then spent several years as multi-instrumentalist/band leader for Todd Snider’s Nervous Wrecks. Lots of session work, plus two way-cool, eclectic solo discs on Waxy Silver – This and Home And Away.
(electric and acoustic guitars, lap steel, harmonica) – This mercurial, enigmatic ringer avoids paparazzi and biographers like the plague, but his fluid six-string wizardry has graced more sweet, sublime records than you could shake a stick at…
1. Rose Garden
Originally released in 1970, this Joe South-penned cross-over monster for Lynn Anderson flat-out tore up the airwaves in 71, even spending six weeks in the Top Ten of Billboard’s pop charts. Kate’s liquid drawl is irresistible; the songbird behind her is Tricia Walker.
2. Mississippi Woman, Louisiana Man
As “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” this rousing duet was a chart-topper for Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn in 1973. A commitment to truth-in-packaging forced Sledge, Mississippi’s Campbell and Monroe, Louisiana’s Kevin Gordon to do some minor song surgery, but the fire still rages. Jay Zdad blows a mean harp, too.
3. Would You Lay With Me In A Field Of Stone
Writer David Allan Coe’s original take was (predictably) a tad, er, creepy, but Tanya Tucker’s saucy 1974 version raised trucker’s temps all up and down those endless gray ribbons of highway. This time through – grounded by Jeff Finlin’s earthy vocal shadowing and resolute, Celtic martial tempo – the tune shifts yet again, at last zeroing in on the song’s core plea for steadfast devotion.
4. Down From Dover
Written and recorded by Dolly Parton in 1970, this bittersweet hill country tale is not only a sterling example of the insight and economy of one of the greatest singer/songwriters who ever lived, but clear evidence of the tremendous influence Parton has wielded on Kate’s own subsequent body of work.
5. Funny Face
An exercise in lovely, hypnotic simplicity, this song was a pan-genre queen all across the radio dial in 1972 for singer/songwriter Donna Fargo. Kate & Co. take it down just a notch, making it a perfect slow-dancer at closing time. Check out the controlled smolder of the guitar interplay and Tricia Walker’s deluxe piano and backing vocals.
6. ‘Til I Can Make It On My Own
As sung by Tammy Wynette (and composed by Wynette, Billy Sherrill and George Richey), this was a prime slice of Sherrill’s slick countrypolitan sound in 1975, but the Campbell Crew (with Kate providing a delicate piano part and Sylvia Hutton’s perfect vocal compliment) turns it into a luscious, neo-baroque parlor jewel.
7. Honey On His Hands
Written by the veteran team of Barnes & Seals, this classic cheatin’ song was a minor hit in 1974 for the under-rated Jeanne Pruett. Kate, along with backing vocals from Tricia and Sylvia, sells the heartbreaking accusation all over again – how could he be such a cad?
8. Boulder To Birmingham
One of the prettiest songs in Emmylou Harris’ extensive catalog, this co-write by Emmylou and Bill Danoff was arguably the linchpin on Harris’ stunning 1975 debut LP, Pieces Of The Sky. As with Parton’s “Down From Dover,” it’s played a crucial role in Campbell’s own tunesmithing. That’s Will Kimbrough channeling the ghost of Gram Parsons behind Kate.
9. Harper Valley PTA
“‘Harper Valley’ is the oldest song on here,” says Campbell. “It came out in 1968, but it’s such a progressive song. It just nails small-town thinking.” No kidding. Jeannie C. Riley’s version of the Tom T. Hall finger-pointer was positively everywhere back in its day, but I swear it never rocked like this…Yikes!
10. Satin Sheets
A career-maker for Jeanne Pruett in 1973, this gold-plated weeper was written by one John E. Volinkaty. The gang pulls out all of the stops on this one, with Gordon, Finlin, Kimbrough, and Walker draping the whole affair with an angel chorus.
11. Help Me Make It Through The Night
One of the most perfect achievements of Kris Kristofferson’s estimable writing career, this was a lights-out standard for Sammi Smith bridging from late-70 to early-71. It’s been recorded literally hundreds of times, but never prettier than this.
12. Touch Your Woman
This 1972 smash for Dolly Parton showcases her gift for taking the bull by the horns and slipping “controversial” topics (this time, personal/sexual equality) beneath country radio’s hyper-sensitive radar. Emphatic and passionate.
13. Twang On A Wire
As if to underline just how much the child has become the mother to the woman, Kate’s own tender paean to these brash ’n’ bold Gals Of Country would slip neatly into Miss Dolly’s songbook without causing a ripple. “Angels with flat-tops, they pick and they sing/Playing those songs that pull on heart strings/And as long as I live, I’ll never tire/Of hearing the sound of a twang on a wire.” Me neither.
Like all great record albums (and this is a record album, in spirit if not in form), Twang On A Wire is much more than just the sum of its parts. Just behind the soulful assurance of this consummate singer and her wonderful band, there lies the image of a little Southern kid, alone in her room.
She’s sitting cross-legged on her bed, guitar in lap; or maybe she’s standing with one leg up on a chair rung to support that big ol’ flat-top with her knee as she fumbles to find the right chord. Close by, the lid is up on the blue-and-white striped record player as the stacked 7-inch 45s click through the changer.
A couple of nickels have been taped to the tone arm, the better to plow through the inevitable scratches on the records caused by repeatedly picking up and going back to hear that one passage again. To get it right…
Like all kids, she has a dream of something special; like a lucky, determined few, hers will eventually come true.
Twang On A Wire is the embodiment of the belief that a great song well-sung will somehow connect with unseen strangers, and by doing so, we all become less strange to one another. It is also a loving thank-you note to the women whose own hard work inspired others to achieve their goals. But most of all, it’s about great songs.
Feel free to sing along…
Jim Musser, October 2002.
Twang On A Wire
61 Gibson, tobacco sunburst
Carved my name on the back and a bible verse
It was one piece of wood that sure started a fire
All I wanted to do was twang on a wire
Well I went to school and then went to work
But it all seemed to me like shoveling dirt
With each passing day I sank deeper in the mire
I had to find me a way to twang on a wire
There have been times when I was so down
Mothers and lovers and preachers came ‘round
No one could cheer me, not one could inspire
There’s no consolation like a twang on a wire
Angels with flat-tops they pick and they sing
Playing those songs that pull on heart strings
As long as I live I’ll never tire
Of hearing the sound of a twang on a wire
When it’s all said and done and I’m laid in the ground
Would you have someone play that sweet Wildwood Flower
You could sing me on over with a big Gospel choir
But all that’s required is a twang on a wire
Kate Campbell and Mark Narmore
© 2002 Large River Music / Cake Taker Music /
March Family Music / SONY ATV Tree Music – BMI
For the bulk of her 10-year career, Kate Campbell has been known primarily in folk circles, although her work has always been informed with the smoldering passions of Memphis soul, country R&B, Southern rock and pop. With the first two releases on her own label, Campbell reconciles the many facets of her sound into a cohesive whole, but on vastly differing corners. On Twang on a Wire, Campbell more fully explores her inner country chick by offering a tribute to some of the influential writers and singers that have contributed to her eclectic style. Campbell’s country tendencies have always been inherent in her folk presentation, but this draws a more obvious and direct line between them, from her heady take on “Rose Garden” to her blistering version of “Harper Valley PTA” to her heart wrenching spins on “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and “Honey On his Hands.” With the subtle tribute of Monuments and the overt homage of Twang on a Wire, Kate Campbell moves away from being measured by her influences and toward standing shoulder to shoulder with them.
– Brian Baker, Country Standard Time