REVIEW: Ted Russell Kamp Stays Spry and Fresh on Down in the Den

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Few artists can claim to have released twelve records within a fifteen-year span; fewer still can have accomplished the task while maintaining a fresh and vital sound. Ted Russell Kamp’s Down in the Den, out July 24th on PoMo Records, sees the acclaimed songwriter and sideman spreading his wings and exploring a wide range of styles with an impressive roster of accomplished Americana artists and friends.

While Kamp may be most recognizable as a bassist for artists such as Shooter Jennings, Jessi Colter, and Whitey Morgan, Down in the Den highlights the extent of his talents as a songwriter and producer. The album takes its name from Kamp’s own home studio, The Den, where he recorded the album and played many of the instruments.

Down in the Den bounces between groove-oriented country rockers like the opening track “Home Sweet Hollywood,” and tunes with a strong Dixieland influence such as “Hobo Nickel,” co-written by Brian Wright and featuring horns from Dave Richards. The former track, featuring pal Shooter Jennings, exemplifies Kamp’s unique voice and keen sense of imagery. Based out of LA, Kamp describes “the cars and the bars and the wannabe stars soaking up the neon light” from the sidelines with an insider’s point of view. “Home Sweet Hollywood” could be easily mistaken for an outtake from Warren Zevon’s Excitable Boy with its boisterous rock n’ roll guitars and soulful harmonies, which appropriately lends itself to the sleazy, double-sided celebration/mockery of Tinseltown’s cutthroat nature.

Down in the Den slows things down a couple of times to deliver ballads that are just as impactful as the rockers. Co-written with Dylan Altman, “Stick With Me” finds a forlorn voice calling out to a road-warring, estranged ex-lover. Dave Berzanski’s invaluable pedal steel contribution takes Kamp’s pining to a higher – or lower – level of sorrow. The seedy bystander we met at record’s start proves to have a sensitive side. “Rainy Day Valentine” reminds the listener of Kamp’s bassist roots. A piece featuring only Kamp on bass and vocals, “Rainy Day Valentine” is a stripped-back, bass-oriented tune seamlessly snug into a roots rock record – an impressive feat that surely would have fallen flat in less-capable hands.

The company Kamp keeps on Down in the Den is a credit towards his talent. Boasting co-writes from the likes of Band of Heathens’ Gordy Quist, John Fogerty’s Billy Burnette, Dave Kennedy, Penny Dale, and more, Down in the Den is an example of many voices smoothly blending into one. The closing track, “Take My Song With You” features Kristen Proffit with co-writing and vocals credits. The song brings the record to a close with a reminder that in the throes of lonesomeness, songs have the power to empower.

Down in the Den is an inspired and thoughtful work too dynamic to simply be classified as roots rock and too compelling to be slept on. You can get your copy at tedrussellkamp.com

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