Monday, May 21, 2007


JUNIOR KIMBROUGH

A general shout-out here in appreciation of the man. Kimbrough was one of my fave musos back in the '90s, and I've decided to re-visit his music once again after getting the urge from his inclusion on the Iggy-curated CD I got free w/ a recent issue of MOJO mag. You may've heard Kimbrough's story before: born in Mississippi in 1930, he was a pivotal influence on pioneering rockabilly god, Charlie Feathers (they can be heard playing together on the unbelievably good Feathers 2CD on Revenant, Get With It), though never really attempted any type of "professional" career in music - outside of playing local juke joints - until the late '80s when he was discovered by one of my favourite music writers, Rober Palmer (his Village Voice article on Black Flag from 1985 is one of the most intelligent pieces ever written on the band). Signing to Fat Possum, home to the equally celebrated RL Burnside, he went on to release four studio albums over the next six years on the label: All Night Long, Sad Days Lonely Nights, Most Things Haven't Worked Out and Gods Knows I Tried.
Although often lumped in the same basket as his compadre Burnside, Kimbrough's style is one-of-a-kind. Unlike Burnside - whose music I like OK, though it never set my world on fire - Kimbrough doesn't have a rough, hopped-up take on modern(-ish) electric blues a la Hound Dog Taylor and his ilk. Kimbrough's is meditative, trance-like and truly minimalist. Whilst I'm here, I'll throw in the term "modal". Y' know, I'm pretty sure a rock crit or two threw phrases around such as "Kimbrough is the Velvet Underground of contemporary blues" at the time. Now that sounds like someone's drawing a long bow, but whoever said it was correct. Many songs - some without any percussive beat whatsoever - feature three-note guitar rhythms which don't stray an inch for over 5-minute durations, much like a hypnotic tape loop. Awesome.
Kimbrough earned himself quite a cult following w/ the rock hipsters and even sold a fair few records during the last decade of his life, with big-note fans like Iggy and fucking Bono(!!!) singing his praises from the sideline, and just when he was starting to make a decent living for his family (and his "family" apparently consisted of 36 children to 9 different women!!) he upped and died in '98. Still, there's a hot legacy of tuneage for the tuned-in left behind, and no matter what All Music Guide says (and no, I have nothing against AMG: I dig it a lot, but just happen to disagree w/ many of its writers' opinions), every one of those Fat Possum platters is well worth grabbing your mits around. I stumbled on the guy's music back in '96 or '7 when I was working for Fat Possum's distributor down here, went quietly nuts over the man and have held his records close ever since. Any fan of primo-era Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker or, as I've noted, the primitive trance-rock of VU or even Spacemen 3's rougher material, will find much of worth in the output of the man known as Junior Kimbrough. Vale!

5 comments:

Mrow said...

I have never heard this man before, though I've always dug that one-chord style of John Lee Hooker. I'm gonna go search around the web and listen to some right now.

Anonymous said...

Sad Days, Lonely Nights:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=lm06GowX3gU

luKe said...

Kimbrough's trance blues is indeed timeless music that never ceases to amaze. I recently saw the touareg band Tinariwen live in Brussels and to me they sounded like a brilliant mix between Ali Farka Toure and Junior Kimbrough. Kimbrough's music has this great African roots feeling...

Eric O said...

junior's juke joint was like a spaceship in the middle of mississippi- once the music and beer (maybe some clear liquor, too) started flowing, the rest of the world just didn't exist.

all of his records are recommended, but sad days, lonely nights is the place to start. you're in for a treat.

Diatton said...

I have been listening the Blues since 1981...So, i have the right to talk about that kind of music...Junior Kimbrough is the real king after the passing of the previous kings such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters...He opened new horizons...I DO LOVE HIM...I am about to make a tribute to him in my blog in a few days...