“It's been a long hard week, a long hard month, it’s been a long hard year. Hard times are nothing new around here,” sings Houston-born songwriter and frontman for the Grammy-nominated string band Wood & Wire, Tony Kamel, on his new tune “Amen.” With a refrain that celebrates making it to the other side of life’s trials and tribulations, “Amen” feels like it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time in the life of musicians or music fans or humanity as a whole; the third verse an impossibly positive song of hope for the pandemic to come to an end. Piano, lap steel, horns, and—in the most Texan twist ever—percussion played on a Yeti cup carry Kamel’s rollicking, good-time melody from words on the page right to every dancefloor, backyard barbeque, road trip, and festival stage imaginable. “Amen” is just one of ten tracks from Kamel’s upcoming solo album, Back Down Home—set to be released September 24th via album-producer Bruce Robison’s The Next Waltz label. This week, The Austin Chronicle premiered a studio-shot music video for “Amen,” praising how it “sets the album’s tone,” adding, “The jaunty number rollicks with an easy rhythm and laid-back wisdom.” Fans can watch the video now at this link and pre-order or pre-save Back Down Home before release day right here.
Back Down Home is the first full solo-artist album from renowned singer-songwriter and producer Bruce Robison’s The Next Waltz label. In just a few days of no-fuss tracking at the Bunker, Robison’s all-analog studio in Lockhart, Texas, Kamel and several talented contributors crafted an album that fully conveys the down-home vibe its title suggests, as well as the laid-back nature of life on Texas’ Gulf Coast, especially Galveston. The operative word in the album’s title, “home,” usually takes on a twofold meaning: the place where people live and the place where people come from, but for Kamel, it also represents the place where his happiest memories were made. He’s got a mental scrapbook filled with special moments he experienced on the shores and waters of the port city once known as “the Ellis Island of the West.”
Kamel says that relaxed feel was easy to achieve partly because of the atmosphere at the Bunker, where Robison purposely avoided the usual, glass-separated studio setup in favor of an environment that’s more like your cool uncle’s throwback gameroom. There’s not a computer screen in sight, and if the vintage 2-inch reel-to-reel tape recorder happens to capture a bird’s well-timed chirp or a slightly imperfect note, that just adds character. “I had a lot of fun making this album, and it turned out better than I could have hoped for,” Kamel says. “I had no experience doing things any other way than how I’ve done them with Wood & Wire. Hell, I hadn’t even really played with a drummer more than a few times in my career.” The sum of all of these parts is a sonic travelogue of sorts that takes listeners from Texas-imprinted country-folk, old-time and bluegrass styles to Louisiana’s singular stew of Cajun, jazz, funk and other special ingredients; a stunning solo debut most aptly described as Third Coast roots music.
In conjunction with the release of Back Down Home, Kamel is creating an accompanying podcast that he calls his "thank you to the people and places that inspired the record.” Featuring interviews with Back Down Home’s cast and crew about making the album, as well as other artists and characters who dive into some of the deeper facets of the album's subject matter—the Gulf Coast, going back to day jobs, overcoming sudden changes, and more. Stay tuned for more info on the podcast at tonykamelmusic.com.
Back Down Home Tracklist:
Slow on The Gulf
Who Am I Kidding?
Let It Slide