MERCY ME, CHILD! YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WOMAN!
CENTER FOR SOUTHERN FOLKLORE
NOVEMBER 5, 2016
KATE CAMPBELL IS A PK! You Southerners out there know perfectly well what a PK is...She is a Preacher's Kid. In her case, a Southern Baptist preacher's kid from Sledge, Mississippi. Being a preacher's kid means that she's moved around a lot and she's heard a boxcar load of Sunday morning sermons. Sunday night and Wednesday night services, too, more than likely.
Given that background over the years, Kate became a complete sponge, absorbing the thoughts, the feeling, the ways, the songs, the heartbeat, the good and bad times, the lifestyle of people all over the South, regardless of race, color, religion or the lack thereof.
There are storytellers who write it down for folks to read; some share their stories via the spoken word, and singer-songwriters deliver the story in their songs. You know who they are: William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Shelby Foote, Congressman John Lewis, J.D. Vance, Rick Bragg, Minton Sparks, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Pete Seeger, Louisa Branscomb, and Claire Lynch, to name a few, plus our subject for today, Kate Campbell.
While it has been many a year since I last saw and heard Kate Campbell, I jumped at the chance to go with a friend to Center for Southern Folklore to hear the artist I remember from quite a while back. Judy Peiser handles the goings-on for the Center, located at 119 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103. Judy and I got reacquainted prior to Kate's performance, and it was great seeing both of these fabulously "uppity" women again!
Stage at Center for Southern Folklore
Center for Southern Folklore is completely funky! It's a great spot for entertainment! Nothing matches anything else, great posters, folk art, and collected items are on the walls, Christmas lights stay up the year 'round, and stuff is just kinda stuck here and there. It all works! You can sit pretty much wherever you want. A wonderful hostess brings popcorn and asks what you would like to drink. Artists mingle with the crowd before and after their concerts. It's a lot like a house concert but at somebody else's house!
Judy Peiser introducing Kate Campbell
Judy Peiser introduced Kate and the artist settled into her chair with her guitar. She got her foot positioned just right on her footstool, checked the microphone, and off she went with Miles of Blues followed by The New South (gotta have a fluffy, expensive little dog like a Bichon Frise), and Mississippi and Me. See Rock City (Sissy from Mississippi) was followed by Fade to Blue and Yellow Guitar (from a short story by Eudora Welty). Kate took some time to talk about Galway to Graceland, a song about going to see the King (Elvis). The song was written by Englishman Richard Thompson.
A Cotton Field Away brought remembrances of times when Elvis wasn't the king. Cotton was King and downtown Memphis still shows vestiges of the "white gold" heyday in the 1930s and '40s.
Delmus Jackson was the black man Kate met at her church, and to whom she gives much credit for his influence on her. Delmus had nine children and times were hard, but he took the time to talk to Kate. They understood each other. Delmus explained that he was "working for the Lord, and seeing His face will be his reward" when the Lord says, "Well done". Her song about this simple, hard-working man brought tears.
Galaxie 500 and Crazy in Alabama are about how the train of change is coming fast, maybe a little too fast for Alabama to keep up. Other Southern states struggle with change, too. Lay Back the Darkness is a dream about laying down the blues for good, if that day ever comes.
Bud's Cement Boat has a fooler of a title. Bud's boat was actually the "Sea Mint", and part of the boat may still be visible somewhere in Alabama today.
Kate Campbell's encore was Joe Louis, and it was about a person who had boxer Joe Louis' furniture in his den! While Kate sang, Judy Peiser slipped a beautiful piece of folk art onto the edge of the stage. The work is called "Brown Bomber".
The show was brief and we would love to have listened late into the night. We had hoped for Jesus and Tomatoes Coming Soon and also Funeral Food, but we will wait for the next time that Kate brings her wonderful, quirky Southern stories in song to Center for Southern Folklore, maybe in her Galaxie 500!
CDs we picked up at the show: The K.O.A. Tapes (Vol. 1), Save the Day, Blues and Lamentations, and Wandering Strange. Kate Campbell has these and several more available at her website. The Folklore store has a good supply of Kate's CDs, too!
Kate Campbell sightings soon:
March 6-9, 2017 Provincetown, MA Cape Cod Songwriters, Sloan Wainwright and Tom Kimmel. Contact David Roth firstname.lastname@example.org or 508.360.8325.
For more information: