Tony Kamel is the singer and guitarist of bluegrass Wood and Wire, a band whose album North of Despair was nominated for a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album. While the band released an album in 2020, Kamel has also ventured out to record an album on his own.
As you might expect, his new album Back Down Home (The Next Waltz) includes some bluegrass instrumentation and sounds, but he also expands to include sounds that are perfect for dancing in honky tonks. The album was recorded in an all-analog studio in a few days and has a down-home feel, which makes the album title particularly apt. Of the album, Kamel said, “Back Down Home represents that reliable, familiar place you can go for comfort, or to escape when everything around you seems unfamiliar and unreliable.”
“Amen” is a song that is just made for a roadside country bar. It’s a mid-tempo song that is easy to dance to, particularly when you hear the bass line and the saloon piano. It’s easy to imagine a roomful of people not only dancing to this one, but also shouting “Amen! Amen!” in response to Kamel. Similarly, it’s easy to imagine a roomful of people singing along to the chorus of “Johnny Law”, in which he sings, “You ain’t nothin’ but a hassle, Johnny Law. You keep tryin’ to shake me down, but I keep shakin’ you off.”
“Slow on the Gulf” is a song about life on the Gulf of Mexico, which is where Kamel grew up. From the title of the song, you might expect a Tex-Mex melody. In fact, the melody is equal parts bluegrass and California country. In it, he sings about how “things move slow on the Gulf of Mexico” and the story he tells is appealing enough that it kind of makes you want to move there.
“Who Am I Kidding?” is a song that is sure to be a hit with other musicians. It tells the story of a musician who is thinking about hanging it up to enjoy his home. Over a bluegrass-influenced melody, Kamel sings about whether leaving the 9 to 5 world for life on the road was a good thing or not. In the chorus, he sings something that probably most professional musicians have thought at some point, “I’ve been thinking about hanging it up. Lord knows that I ain’t gonna hang it up. Who am I kidding?”
“Heat” is an interesting blend of sounds. It opens with some horns that bring a Memphis sound, As the song progresses, you hear some honky-tonk piano, Cajun fiddle, and mandolin. You may not have an easy time classifying this song, but you will certainly have a good time listening to it.
Back Down Home by Tony Kamel is an album with a good blend of honky-tonk dance numbers and front-porch foot-tappers. The songs are appealing not only because of the great melodies but also because they are easy to sing whether you’re in a crowd of people or sipping sweet tea (or some other beverage) on your front porch.