“Compassionate,” is one of the superlatives used by Tom Pacheco, along with “tough, tender and full of heart,” to describe fellow singer-songwriter Charles Lyonhart. Those characteristics are among the reasons that a whole host of performers including legendary multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell and life-mate Teresa Williams will join in at a Bearsville Theater benefit concert at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 21 to help support the ailing Lyonhart through a time of medical and financial need.
Though Pacheco has had to pull out of the show due to a family emergency, Lyonhart’s friends and benefactors who will perform include the great Marc Black, along with Michael Espositio, Eric Parker and Pete Levin; Brian Hollander; Lincoln Schleifer; George Quinn, Marty Kupersmith; Joel Diamond and Montgomery Delaney.
The event also triggers the release of Campbell and Williams’ first album as a duo by Redhouse Records on June 23.
Winner of numerous awards, including three Grammys for producing widely-honored Levon Helm albums, the 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year Award from the Americana Music Association as well as their Lifetime Achievement Award — all before all before the release of his first album with Williams, Campbell holds a unique position on today’s musical scene. Hailed as a master sessions player in the music community, as a longtime member of Bob Dylan’s band and an anchor of Levon Helm’s “Ramble” shows at his Woodstock studio, and backing up our finest musicians at hundreds of recording sessions, Campbell has kept himself so busy polishing the work of other artists that his name is not yet a “household” item it deserves to be.
As a music critic and observer for decades, so much of my own life could be found in the grooves of the many, myriad CDs Larry played upon that he was already an old friend before meeting him in the flesh one night at one of Levon’s Rambles. “Oh my, “I thought to myself, “he really is just one guy.” Excelling on so many instruments in so many styles of music seems to defy the fact that he is self-taught, a point which magnifies the inestimable value of his parents’ large, eclectic record collection which helped guide his way.
“I’ve known Charles for many years; he’s probably one of the most soulful human beings I’ve ever known,” Campbell recalls. “He’s a deeply compassionate guy and has come to the rescue of many people in the years that I’ve known him. This is a time he could use some help and I feel that anything I could do for him is only going to scratch the surface of what he’s done for people over the years.”
Last October Lyonhart had to close his business (which supplied herbs and other raw materials to vitamin and health supplement manufacturers) due to changes in FDA regulations that installed requirements smaller businesses found too demanding for their limited resources. His own health situation also diminished the energies he could devote to his own livelihood and eliminated his ability to help others. A transplanted liver in 2005 had banished the cancer which was attacking his own liver, but not the Hepatitis C virus which had prompted it. In the years since that operation, cirrhosis has set into the new liver and solid biological circumstances argue against the viability of another transplant. Sunday’s concert has been scheduled to help Charles meet the demands of current life situations and medical treatments.
A ray of light, cast by new Hepatitis C drugs like Solvardi and Harvoni, which boast high cure rates, at least halting viral progress in early stages in the last two years. But they are mired in fierce debates about how prices of over a thousand dollars a pill can be justified by their manufacturers and what that level of cost over a treatment period requiring as many as 80 pills per patient will do to the current structure of health insurance and governmental programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Hepatitis C victims number in the millions and clearly, if pharmaceutical costs continue to hold at these levels, the healthcare system is in unknown territory.
Meanwhile, the feasibility of regenerating liver cells is being discussed in research circles. Other possibilities are fueling hopeful speculation, even in transplant cases where the necessity of drugs to suppress immune system rejection complicates matters like fighting infections and other biological compromises.
As these massive questions hover, Lyonhart faces basic issues of debt and survival, expressing a grateful rebound from the stress of the challenges ahead due to “all of the people who have come out for me, renewing my feeling that I have a reason to be here.” He has even found his own songwriting re-inspired and speaks enthusiastically about a ballad he is currently writing about an American hero who rescued children from a helicopter attack in Iraq. Obviously, he still sees music in his future.
Campbell and Williams’ forthcoming album features primarily songs of his own composition, plus a few cover tunes. Williams Tennessee tones were entirely authentic and well recognized in country, folk and Americana circles before she met her Manhattan-raised husband while he was touring with Dylan’s band. The lovely texture and flavor of such tunes as “Did You Ever Love Me At All?” demonstrate that the duo possesses all the qualities of out front feature performers. While lending their talents to other artists, the missing element was, apparently, the availability of enough time to focus on their own project while enhancing the music of others every day.
Campbell feels that the couple’s years within the community spirit of Levon’s Rambles were a key factor in the evolution of their sound, but as open and accessible as it may be, it is still distinctly their own. After the album’s release, Campbell and Williams will tour the midwest in July and August and, in September, begin a three month world tour with Jackson Browne.