A Brief Tribute to the Raw Blues of Junior Kimbrough

Recently, I was inspired to take a look at a slightly lesser known blues man by the name of Junior Kimbrough. Inspiration came in the form of a one-two punch; the music of a more modern band and an email contribution from a reader. Combine together with some good timing (I just happened to be listening to this "more modern band" when I read said email contribution) and we have inspiration for a small tribute to a somewhat under appreciated blues master.

I'm relatively new to Kimbrough's unique blues style... it's sort of hypnotic and very visceral, but still has a lot of delta blues within it... as I've only really come to appreciate his music within the past few months or so. Once I discovered it though, I realized that I'd actually been listening to his work, covered by other people, for quite some time... cool how things work out that way some times.

For this brief tribute I really wanted the man and his music to speak for themselves, but unfortunately it seems quite difficult to find live video footage of Kimbrough playing... at least footage that is easily accessible via the Internet. Instead, I found a music video put together I believe shortly before he passed away in 1998.

Special thanks to Youtube and extra special thanks to roastingears for presenting this. The song is Junior's "Sad Days, Lonely Nights."

The video is well done, but it's the music that really shines. Powerful, gritty, soulful and very different than more classically styled blues. This isn't the classy, night club styled blues, suit and tie required... no, this is raw delta style electric blues. It sounds huge, but minimal at the same time. It really makes me wish I could have seen Junior playing at his own juke joint before he died and it's easy to see why so many have been inspired by his work.

So as I mentioned in my introduction, it turns out that I had actually been listening to the work of Junior Kimbrough for far longer than I thought. I've even been talking about his music, without actually using his name, as part of this site! Take this rock and roll feature I did way back when the Soul of Rock 'n' Roll was first taking off: Rock & Roll Feature: Buddy Guy and His Sweet Tea

That was only the 6th Rock and Roll feature I wrote (I'm on something like 25 now), but the album featured is still one of my absolute favorites. And who does Buddy Guy feature on the album by covering, in incredible fashion, no less than 4 of his songs? Junior Kimbrough.

And what about that band I mentioned in the intro as having been part of my inspiration? That was the Black Keys... a band I've mentioned before (you can search the site to find an article or two). They issued an entire 6 song EP of Kimbrough covers. In fact after really diving into the work of Junior and the Keys, I see an almost direct connection. It's as if the Black Keys take the style of Kimbrough and just filter it through the proto-punk of the Stooges... and they do it very well while still paying tribute to the master. Great stuff, and a band that although they impressed me right off the bat, has really grown on me recently.

Anyways, if you're into blues and you've never listened to the work of Junior Kimbrough, I think it's time you do... some truly incredible songs. If you happened to dig that album by Buddy Guy I featured, or the work of the Black Keys, well, you're already listening to the Kimbrough's music... time to take a deeper look. And just about anyone else who likes their music rough, authentic and emotional... time to check this guy out. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


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