The couple that plays together slays together, as Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams demonstrated April 23 during their sold-out gig at Natalie’s Grandview in Ohio.

They played. The audience was quickly slayed. Which is to say, Campbell and Williams killed.

And while the First Couple of Americana thus created a new adage, they also dispensed with another that involves veteran musicians playing new material and losing the audience. This show included all 10 tracks from 2024’s All This Time – not in sequence, however – and the crowd savored every second of the 16-song, 100-minute performance.

Backed by bassist and background vocalist Brandon Morrison and former Hot Tuna drummer Justin Guip, Campbell and Williams created the setlist using material from their three duo LPs, their work with Levon Helm (“The Poor Old Dirt Farmer”) and Campbell’s time as one of Phil Lesh’s Friends with a raucous “Big River.”

The former featured Campbell on fiddle and Williams on mandolin as the husband-and-wife duo played straight bluegrass atop a rock ‘n’ roll rhythm section. They’d switched to electric and acoustic guitars, respectively, for the hard-charging rockabilly of the latter, which served as the final encore and earned a standing ovation. 

But the show was centered on All This Time. And Campbell, in black, and Williams, in red, emphasized the songs’ 1950s subtext while presenting them in 21st-century Americana context. “Desert Island Dreams,” the title track and “Ride with Me” found Campbell using fingerpicks on his electric while Williams strummed her acoustic guitar. 

Their voices – his belting baritone, her powerful mezzo-soprano – meanwhile wrapped around each other much as the subjects in Campbell’s amorous compositions. 

“Teresa thinks all these songs are about her,” Campbell said after the one-two-three opening salvo. And of course, they are, except broken-heart laments such as “Down on My Knees,” which Williams says are about “the one that came before me.” 

But Williams happily claimed “When I Stop Loving You,” the stunning, soul-rooted Campbell-William Bell co-write from 2017’s Contraband Love

“Baby, the sun won’t rise/the moon won’t appear/and he stars will fall/when I stop loving you/when I stop loving you/somebody will close my eyes/and I’m gonna hear/the angels call/when I stop loving you/and my heart will beat no more,” they sung with their voices intertwined at the top of their ranges. 

This – and “A Little Bit Better,” Campbell’s balladic ode to Laurel and Hardy – left audience members literally gasping at their beauty. So while Campbell and Williams created one adage and obliterated another, they subsequently reinforced third about intimates making beautiful music together. 

That they did so in a tiny venue so cozy Williams likened it to being in the living room with friends made it all the better. But, as anyone who’s witnessed the pair in action knows, Campbell and Williams should be playing arenas.