Video Premiere: Tony Kamel Steps Out Solo With An “Amen”
String band leader channels Levon Helm on Back Down Home
By Doug Freeman,
11:00AM, Wed. Jul. 14, 2021
Last summer, Wood & Wire released its fourth LP and follow-up to 2018’s Grammy-nominated platter North of Despair. The aptly titled No Matter Where It Goes From Here clarioned an optimistic note from the local string quartet amid the pandemic’s hottest days, a sense that as bad as things may get, we also need to cherish what we have.
That same sense carries over to Wood & Wire frontman Tony Kamel’s first solo outing. Back Down Home, due out September 24 via The Next Waltz, catches Kamel at the crux of two homes – one carrying the purpose of new fatherhood to a baby girl, and the other looking back to his raising in Houston and on the Gulf Coast following the death of his father. In other words, that which puts even a global pandemic into perspective.
For the album, Kamel assembled a remarkable cast of talent in Bruce Robison’s analog Lockhart studio, The Bunker. Ten tracks swing through a remarkably smooth stylistic range, aided by artists including Noah Jeffries on fiddle and mandolin, and Geoff Queen holding down all things steel. Shinyribs’ Kevin Russell, Kelley Mickwee, and Alice Spencer provide backing vocals, with Keith Langford supplying percussion for a couple tracks.
Lead-off track “Amen” sets the album’s tone, and you can check out the premiere of the live video from the recording session here. The jaunty number rollicks with an easy rhythm and laid-back wisdom.
“This tune is meant to celebrate the end of dark periods and coming back into the light – a theme over the course of the record,” offers Kamel. “I started writing this one a few years back and forgot about it. The first verse touches on my impending middle age, I suppose. The second, I wrote when I was itching to get back to playing shows after a long winter, and the third I finished as I was visualizing and hoping for an end to this pandemic.
“Musically, it’s inspired by my love of Levon Helm. On a macro level, I can’t think of an artist, sound, and a vibe that inspires me more.”
Catch Kamel working a solo residency each Wednesday night through July at Lamberts downtown.