222

Junior Kimbrough: Meet Me In the City

Derek Taylor By

Sign in to view read count
With Kimbrough’s death in early '98 the blues world lost one its most uncompromising and idiosyncratic practitioners. All we’re left with now are posthumous collections like this one that out of necessity are forced to scrape the bottom of the corn liquor barrel for ‘new’ and releasable material. Though not imbued with the same level of quality as Fat Possum’s earlier Kimbrough compendium “God Knows I Tried,” the eight tracks included on this new compilation still offer plenty of Junior’s gutbucket grit and pathos.

The first four numbers are culled from home recordings that Kimbrough taped in his living room and were presumably never intended for release. The sound quality is lo-fi in the extreme and the disc sleeve even carries a disclaimer regarding the foggy fidelity. Fat Possum’s crack team of engineers excised some of the extraneous surface noise and household banter, but at the expense of blunting and flattening Kimbrough’s sound. The end result is as frustrating as it is haunting. Junior’s gravelly voice is often far back in the stunted mix. His droning guitar lines take on an even more cavernous clamor than usual over the crackles and hiss of the ragged source tape. Listening to these pieces reminded me of my first exposure to Son House’s 1930 sides for the Paramount label, some of the most sonically suspect recordings ever reissued. Even when buried in such a viscous aural morass, the raw emotive force of the music claws its way through. The version of “Done Got Old,” is a perfect case in point and is spine tingling in its naked hopelessness. The lyrics are simple and rough, but speak with a gruff poetry to the perils and hardships of one’s twilight years.

The second four tracks are pristine by audio comparison and were probably recorded on at least semi-professional equipment. Kimbrough is backed by his usual combo, the ‘Soul Blues Boys’ and the trio churns out grinding readings of some his classics. Junior even pauses repeatedly between tunes to good-naturedly chide the audience. Among the high points is a pounding rendition of “All Night Long” fueled by Junior’s jarring chords and Gary Burnside’s hammering traps.

The two sides of the disc are in many ways like opposite sides of the same coin and offer a fascinating juxtaposition in sound. All of the tunes were recorded prior to Junior’s debut record, “All Night Long” and their relative age is further proof of their worth. The horrible sound on the first four songs may prove difficult to forgive, especially for audiophile listeners, but Kimbrough’s music never was about polish and decorum. Definitely not the place to start if you’re just discovering Junior’s work. If anything the disc sculpts in bold relief the tragedy that the man wasn’t recorded more prolifically and professionally in his lifetime.


Track Listing: Meet Me In the City, Done Got Old, Baby Please Don

Personnel: Junior Kimbrough-electric guitar & vocals, Kenny Malone-drums, Gary Burnside-bass.

Title: Meet Me In the City | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Fat Possum Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Kurrent CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Duets CD/LP/Track Review Duets
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Rev CD/LP/Track Review Rev
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 17, 2017
Read The Frequency Modulators Orchestra, Vol. 1 CD/LP/Track Review The Frequency Modulators Orchestra, Vol. 1
by Jim Olin
Published: October 17, 2017
Read The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren CD/LP/Track Review The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 16, 2017
Read Any Other Way CD/LP/Track Review Any Other Way
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 16, 2017
Read "Groovin' Hard: Live At The Penthouse 1964-1968" CD/LP/Track Review Groovin' Hard: Live At The Penthouse 1964-1968
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 18, 2017
Read "Putting Off Death" CD/LP/Track Review Putting Off Death
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 17, 2017
Read "Live at the High Noon" CD/LP/Track Review Live at the High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "Fake It Until You Make It" CD/LP/Track Review Fake It Until You Make It
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 17, 2016
Read "Escape  from The Unhappy Society" CD/LP/Track Review Escape from The Unhappy Society
by Anthony Shaw
Published: February 1, 2017
Read "Lookin' East" CD/LP/Track Review Lookin' East
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 22, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.