Music

'I Like It Down Here' Southerner Will Kimbrough Says

Photo: Stacie Huckaba / Conqueroo

The American South may not be a perfect place, but Will Kimbrough displays its riches through these tales of life on I Like It Down Here.

I Like It Down Here
Will Kimbrough

Soundly

19 April 2019

For those of us who don't live in the American South, and have only visited it occasionally, it's the place of good greasy food, sing-songy vocal accents, a troubled Civil Rights history, and ignorant folks. Southerner Will Kimbrough would probably agree with the first three traits, but his insightful tribute to the region, I Like It Down Here, suggests that what is taken for ignorance is just a pose to fool others. That has been a Southern trope since the end of the Civil War, if not earlier (think of Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus stories). Kimbrough sometimes might act like a dumb hick on his latest album, but as its title suggests he loves the South, flaws and all, and is smart enough to recognize its failings as well as its charms.

And perhaps "flaws" and "failings" are too mild descriptions for murder and other troubles that Kimbrough addresses. The most poignant track on the album concerns the 1981 lynching of Michael Donald Herndon in "Alabama". Kimbrough bitterly retells the story through the ghostly voice of the victim. "They cut my throat / Put a noose around my neck / hung me from a tree," he sings in a plaintive tone. Whew. The simple words say it all.

The narrator of "Alabama" noted that the men who did this to him were caught and tried. The song that follows, "Buddha Blues" is narrated by a man in prison—maybe not Herndon's killer, but a murderer nonetheless. He's angry but learns to reflect instead of just react. The song ends with the lines "Alabama here we rest / Live in Light and Peacefulness." The capitalization is Kimbrough's as printed in the liner notes. Redemption exists.

Kimbrough produced the record. He sings and plays guitar, keyboards, and harmonica. He's joined by a small combo (Chris Donahue on bass, Bryan Owings on drums and percussion) and guest stars such as Shemekia Copeland, Brigitte DeMeyer on individual cuts. Kimbrough has a pleasant voice that's frequently conversational in tone. He's a great player, as evidenced by winning the Americana Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year award in the past. He has toured with Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and Todd Snider and his songs have been recorded by Little Feat, Jimmy Buffett, and Jack Ingram. Kimbrough is also the other half of the cult band Daddy with Tommy Womack. I Like It Down Here is Kimbrough's first solo recording in five years, and it's clear that he's saved up a bunch of excellent songs.

There are upbeat songs as well as the more serious tracks. The title cut sultrily captures the working class joys of everyday living on the rural route. The story of one of life's down-and-outers, "Anything Helps", offers a clear-eyed view of one's lot in life with a whistle and a smile. "It's a Sin" recapitulates the story of To Kill a Mockingbird with its theme of empathy. The South may not be a perfect place, but Kimbrough displays its riches through these tales of life.

Kimbrough paints the South as he sees it with compassion and fellow feeling. He identifies with it; all ten songs are written and sung in the first person. He's saying in essence, if you like me you have to love the South, like a date who demands affection for their pet. That's cool, but Kimbrough will not be enticing tourists. I Like It Down Here is a blues record. The songs may not contain the word in their titles, but the blues elements are clear when listening. Kimbrough may love the South. I'll enjoy the record and stay here.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.