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You better Junior

Since the dawn of mankind, there were people, events and traditions that ignited the spark to inspire others.  If you were humble enough, you could have easily been pulled into a state of trance, trust and liberation of a certain moment. The feeling of freedom which could not be stained from an outside influence. The story of one blues man is one of those.

Welcome to the sad days and lonely nights of  DAVID ‘JUNIOR’ KIMBROUGH!

David ‘Junior’ Kimbrough was born July 28, 1930 in Hudsonville, Mississippi. As a little kid, he was learning the music from regional stars such as Eli Green, Bud Lee Jenkins, and Kimbrough’s brother, Peter. He also played house parties. The main early influence on Junior was left by Lightnin’ Hopkins. In the late ’50-es he started developing his style and slowly reinventing the kind of playing not similar to any other of his contemporaries. On of his closest friends (and rivals) was a fellow north hill bluesman R.L.Burnside. Kimbrough ran own parties and jukejoints, developing distinctive style through long nightly jams. Mid-tempo rhythms and steady drone (played by his thumb on a bass string of a guitar) characterized by the tricky syncopation, made his sound more bit trance like, repetitive and hypnotic. Not very common in typical, overall ‘blues’ setting. Sometimes polyrhythmic, it could be easily directed to the feeling and music of Africa.

Deep under those tones the similarity between him and Ali Farka Toure can’t be overlooked. In an interview from the 1990. which was later published in Guitar Player magazine, Junior said : “I have a different type of music from other peoples. They playing the other kind of blues, and I’m playing cotton-patch blues… Ain’t nobody now can play the blues that I play.”

In his natural environment, Junior would spend most of his life/career. To be more closer to people and never to abandon his roots, a house called ”Juniors’ Place” became the foundation for the live music rituals. People all over the world made pilgrimage to witness the power of something unconventional.  The word of this blues wizard traveled to the eyes and ears of some of the biggest entertainers in the music industry who went to see him play. To name a few:  Sonic Youth, Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop and U2. On every given Sunday you could go and see for yourself what was going on in there. Accompanied by his son Kenny Malone on drums and R.L. Burnside‘s son Gary on bass. Extensive sets, long jams and never ending party for all the souls needed to be purified. The church for all the broken, tired, worn out and outcast. Even though he was discovered fairly late in his life,  in the early’90-es the mission for granting the world with some of the best blues music known to man goes  to Fat Possum record label and the late, great Robert Palmer. In the late 1980s, Palmer visited Kimbrough while searching for material for a blues documentary, Deep Blues. Palmer wound up recording several of Kimbrough’s tracks for the soundtrack album. It circulated through the underground and became incredibly influential. Fat Possum Records went a step further and introduced Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside, T-Model Ford and Asie Payton to national record stores. Job well done , cards well played!

During his lifetime, Junior managed to record and release couple of albums. Each and every one a piece of unique texture, story and haunted lyrics. Well, except all those ‘baby’,  ‘gonna leave you’ , ‘love’ songs. He shortly toured several times with the Fat Possum Circus and did some dates with Iggy Pop. Never was too comfortable with going out from his north hill surroundings. One band owes more to Junior than any other. From Akron, Ohio the preachers of  the ’21st century blues’ The Black Keys. He left so much influence and marked the sound and expression on several of their albums. They even recorded a full tribute album [Chulahoma:The Songs Of Junior Kimbrough], made of previously written Kimbroughs’ songs. The played it on their own terms and put themselves on the international music scene.

 In addition to the 36 children he claimed, Junior put his brand on music. He died of heart failure at the age of 67 and left the Earth on January 17, 1998.  He still kept a one-room bachelor’s apartment at the time of his death: clean, with nothing on the walls or tables, no pictures, no tour posters. Junior knew what he had accomplished, and didn’t need any souvenirs.

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