Sunday Nights: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough
Junior Kimbrough, who passed away in 1998, was a long-neglected blues musician, who only found critical and artistic success at the age of 62. While he performed nearly all his life as a blues singer in the North Mississippi Hill Country, an impoverished and neglected part of the state, he remained a regional performer in an area that was overshadowed by the nearby Delta and its respective performers. It was only through the exposure of music critic and historian Robert Palmer, in his book Deep Blues and its corresponding soundtrack, that Kimbrough began to gain visibility. As the first artist on the fledgling Fat Possum label, he immediately garnered critical attention with his first release, All Night Long. With a raised visibility and flushed with success, Kimbrough undertook several national tours, including one opening for Iggy Pop. His juke joint, known as Kimbrough’s Place, long known in the area, moved to a larger venue where bands like the Rolling Stones and U2 came to visit.
On Sunday Nights, many of Kimbrough’s legendary tracks are covered by his musical and spiritual heirs. And while neither the Stones nor U2 make an appearance, such luminaries as Spiritualized, Cat Power, The Fiery Furnaces and Mark Lanegan are present. The album opens and closes with two different versions of “You Better Run,” by the reformed Iggy and the Stooges. The first, a slash-and-burn run through of the track; the second, a more rhythm and blues-based version. Both are interesting versions. The real standout tracks, though, belong to fellow Fat Possum artists The Heartless Bastards, whose singer, Erika Wennerstrom, wails the blues from down deep in her soul on a version of “Done Got Old.” While singer Jim White also contributes a version of the same track, The Heartless Bastards positively own the track and scorch it. Likewise, longtime Kimbrough fans The Black Keys (who have covered several of his songs on their own albums) work up a version of “My Mind is Ramblin’,” which emotes so much sorrow it could cause a rock to weep.
Sunday Nights is a fitting tribute to a man whose career was much too short and lacked the type of exposure that many lesser artists receive. However, it is also a useful introduction to his music. As such, one can only hope it will serve to introduce more listeners to his music.
Fat Possum: www.fatpossum.com