A New Orleans-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, Kate Campbell draws inspiration from the people and culture of the modern South. Equal parts Emmylou Harris and Flannery O'Connor, Campbell uses her folk and Americana-leaning songs to chronicle the societal changes below the Mason-Dixon Line. Emerging in mid-'90s, Campbell has issued dozens of well-received albums, with highlights arriving via 1997's Moonpie Dreams, 2006's For the Living of These Days, 2012's 1000 Pound Machine, and 2018's Damn Sure Blue. In addition to her solo work, Campbell has released material with Pierce Pettis and Tom Kimmel under the New Agrarians moniker.
Born in New Orleans, where her father was attending seminary school, Campbell spent her formative years in northern Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee. Her greatest musical influence came from her mother, who sang and played blues and swing tunes on the piano. Her maternal grandfather was an amateur bluegrass fiddle and banjo player. Campbell's first instrument was a ukulele she received at the age of four. After studying classical piano, she tried her hand at clarinet before settling on the guitar. Her performing debut came when she and her sister sang Dolly Parton's "Daddy Was an Old Time Preacher Man" at a church event. The civil rights movement of the early '60s had a profound effect on her, as her father maintained an open-door policy at the white Baptist church in Sledge, Mississippi where he preached. As a teenager, Campbell was drawn to folk-rooted protest songs and became absorbed by the music of Peter, Paul and Mary. She was later influenced by singer/songwriters including James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, and Kris Kristofferson.
After earning undergraduate degrees in music and history from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, Campbell continued her education at Auburn University, where she earned a Master's degree in history. Although she temporarily lived in California with her husband Ira, she returned to Nashville in 1988. Her debut album, Songs from the Levee, was released in 1995. Several releases for Compass followed throughout the remainder of the '90s: Moonpie Dreams (1997), Visions of Plenty (1998), and Rosaryville (1999). In 2001, Campbell switched labels, releasing Wandering Strange on Eminent. Monuments arrived in 2003, followed by a collection of covers called Twang on a Wire. The following year Compadre released The Portable Kate Campbell and Sing Me Out, both of which featured re-recordings of tracks from her first four records. She returned to original music in 2005 with Blues and Lamentations on the Large River Music label, which also released subsequent outings, 2006's For the Living of These Days (featuring Spooner Oldham) 2008's Save the Day, 2011's Two Nights in Texas, and 2012's 1000 Pound Machine. In 2013 she teamed up with Pierce Pettis and Tom Kimmel and issued Due South Co-Op as The New Agrarians, and in 2018 she released, again via Large River Music, the soulful Damn Sure Blue, which featured a pair of Johnny Cash covers. ~ Craig Harris