Ted Russell Kamp: Down in the Den [Ted Russell Kamp/Pomo Records] (Album Review)

Reviewed by Mae Hunt

Country musician Ted Russell Kamp’s recently released album, Down in the Den, is dense with soulful and diverse tracks. Kamp is well-known as a bassist for popular bands (including Shooter Jennings, Jessi Colter, and Whitney Morgan) but takes center stage on these 14 tracks. This album, his 12th independent record, highlights Kamp’s powerful vocals, lyrical abilities, even his trumpet-playing skills. Most of the album was recorded in Kamp’s home studio, The Den, which inspired the album title. 

What impressed me most about the album was Kamp’s range, both lyrically and instrumentally. Though primarily rooted in Americana music, Kamp offers his listeners diversified tracks, which include a range of instrumentals: bass, acoustic guitar, trumpet, banjo, dobro, and keyboard. In addition, Kamp pulls in various artists to create a diverse mix of songs. All of these elements combine to cultivate an album that ranges from whimsical to sensitive to soulful. 

Down in the Den is kicked off with the upbeat and cheerful Home Sweet Hollywood. Country rock to the core, this song details Kamp’s experience being in the heart of Hollywood’s music industry and prioritizing music over money. His love for the place that he considers home is evident, as he sings: “Home sweet Hollywood, you gotta be crazy to stay. Home sweet Hollywood, I wouldn’t have it any other way.” 

In one of my favorite tracks of the album, Waste a Little Time, Kamp light-heartedly sings about romance. The song begins with a single trumpet (yes, it’s Kamp on the trumet!), which is later accompanied by guitars and keyboard (which are also by Kamp’s hand!). His musical prowess is certainly evident here, as in many other tracks. Other talented musicians join Kamp’s instrumentals, including Mike Bray (vocals), Jim Doyle (drums), and Bart Ryan (guitar). Together, the vocals and instrumentals coalesce to create a tongue-in-cheek melody: “We got nowhere to be and not a thing to do, we won’t do nothing that we don’t want to do. So waste a little time, waste a little time with me.”

In another whimsical track, Hobo Nickel, Kamp sings about a happy-go-lucky vagabond with few belongings, no destination, and loads of freedom. The song is brimming with fingerpicking banjo and guitar while Kamp sings cheerfully along. That same fingerpicking technique appears in Stick With Me, though this track introduces a sensitive element to the album. In this love song about a marriage proposal, Kamp drawls: “Must have been a million miles before I found you, waiting tables in an Oakland drive. I’m a better man and ready for a round two. I hope this ring will say what words just can’t.”

In the ballad Only Son, Kamp’s voice is joined by Shane Alexander on vocals and together their voices carry the deep track, accompanied by Dan Wistrom’s pedal steel. Only Son contemplates the concept of time and how quickly it passes: “Time rushes by like a river will flow. Years they will come and the years they will go.” As the pace and momentum increase, the instrumentals pick up and transform the track from soft to sweeping. 

Each and every one of the 14-tracks are worthy of attention, but to wrap it up, I’ll touch on the album’s finale. Take My Songs With You, written with Kristen Proffitt, is the perfect resolution. Down in the Den contains songs that can be listened to in various states. For example, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I might throw on the blissful The Good Part. On the other hand, when seeking comfort from a higher power, I would listen to the sentimental track, Hold On. Ultimately, the album’s closing track is Kamp’s hope that listeners will take pieces of the album with them moving forward. I certainly will!

Buy Down in the Den here.

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