They say you can never go home. This is clearly more time-related than location-based, but I've seen that both is possible. Tony Kamel, front man for Grammy-winning Wood & Wire, seems to be one of those exceptions. At the urging of legendary Texan musician and producer Bruce Robison, Tony has just released his first solo album, Back Down Home. In it, Kamel collected a multitude of stories and partly written songs from his past and inspired by his time in southeast Texas. To give it a little retro feel, they recorded everything on analog tape in Robison's home studio. They brought a few friends over to add harmonies and different instruments and it all fell in tribute to simpler times.
Slow On the Gulf is like the title track on the record. It has a bit of Texas swing in a laid-back way and is reminiscent of a time when it was just a matter of living life at the pace of the Gulf Coast and making a living singing in local bars. The Surfer is a sweet Cajun country waltz about an Aquarius who simply cannot escape the spiritual cleansing of the waves. The heat goes a little inland to capture the feel of a roadhouse, accompanied by a few brass-colored horns.
Several melodies illustrate Kamel's appreciation for the life he has lived, rich in experience, if not so much money. This river uses a pounding kick drum to convey the heartbeat of the musician's life. Amen thanks you for having endured difficult times, even though some of them, such as the trials and sorrows of aging, are not yet over. Who Am I Kidding is the love song that probably every musician should write at some point. In a Hill Country folk song style, he thanks his wife because even though he sometimes thinks of getting a normal job, “who am I kidding”. Let It Slide is probably the closest thing to the bluegrass style I associate with Wood & Wire.
At 35 minutes for 10 songs, this is a lean project. Robison left out a lot of the jams and solos I might have expected. It forced Kamel to distill his music the way you boil a shrimp broth to make a good sauce. Every song on Back Down Home is a good one, and with the vocals and fiddle ending on Change, the album's final statement, I can practically guarantee you'll want more.
About the author: I actually drove from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I saw Dallas from a DC-9 at night.