[18 February 2014]
Will Kimbrough belongs to the same Southern singer-songwriting tradition as his pals Rodney Crowell, Tommy Womack, and Todd Snider. Like his friends and peers, Kimbrough has the same self-deprecating sense of humor and instrumental chops on guitar, banjo, mandolin, keyboards, and more that make his story songs into mini-operas. He’s backed up Chris Donahue on bass, Paul Griffith on drums, vocalist Lisa Oliver Gray, and David Henry on cello. Kimbrough often affects a drawl and sings and plays in counterpoint to their cadences and phrasings. The songs themselves range from heartfelt and funny to being deadly serious in a droll manner. Consider the title song that invokes everything from an old-time carnival freak show (“they’ve seen the tattooed man, the Ubangi girl, the four legged rooster from another world, they’ve seen the wolf boy, the jungle man, the pin-headed lady and the two-headed man”) to the modern day mutants like paparazzi and web stalkers as a way of expressing how unusual his relationship is to a lovely lady. The metaphors work because they are so over the top—big top, that is. Kimbrough continually exaggerates his needs and desires on other songs as a way of expressing his cravings for love and human companionship. The strategy avoids being clichéd through his lyrical cleverness and instrumental talents. The dozen tracks here vary in musical style and reveal a playful and inspired creativity on every cut.