The Attic Sessions Episode 1: Will Kimbrough
Will Kimbrough talks laundry, cow punk, and the best platform for a guitar solo.
You could’ve said at one point in time that The Attic Lounge hadn’t been christened yet. Will Kimbrough came in on Thursday in late October to do just that. Kimbrough was rockin’ MTV with Will and the Bushmen when I was in diapers. He was on John Prine’s record label when I was in first grade. Kimbrough was recognized in 2004 as the Instrumentalist of the Year by the Americana Music Association which is an award usually goes to Dobro legend Jerry Douglas. He's even had songs recorded by Jimmy Buffett. The plan was to use this session as a class on modern music and songwriting as much as it was to hear some great music. It was hard to classify Kimbrough as anything while describing him to my peers as I scheduled the session. Kimbrough is an award winning guitarist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. It is even hard to put a genre on his music. Call it blues, the newly coined Americana, or even cow punk.
We jumped right into song when Kimbrough arrived. He used our couch as a stand for his three guitars. “I like to do what I'm told and come prepared,” he said. Sitting down on a piano bench behind a holy picture of Roy Acuff and the Smokey Mountain Boys, he pulled out his silver resonator guitar, and went straight into “Wash n Fold,” a blues driven, seven minute long jam that Kimbrough calls “an excuse to play that New Orleans rhythm,” and also an example of a simple blues song, driven by great guitar work. “I’ve played that song to 10 or 12 minutes long and no one seems to get bored.” “The song is about love and sex,” Kimbrough said. I figured that much with lines like “It’s time to barbeque the sacred cow.” “Wash n Fold” means a lot to Kimbrough who spent years on the road trying to find just that, Wash n Folds. “Gettin' your clothes cleaned and pressed on a long tour is the best thing; it’s like goin’ home to Momma.” Kimbrough has toured around the globe with different artists and also with his sidekick Tommy Womack with whom he created Daddy, a duo for the two to channel their similar songwriting and playing styles.
From there, Kimbrough put down his delta blues resonator and picked up an acoustic guitar to play “Three Angels.”
“This is a song I wrote for my two daughters and wife,” he said. “I always thought it was too corny and cheesy. I thought all my songs needed to be cynical and clever, but I finally played it one night and people really responded to it. Songs change when you play them in front of people. They either fall flat or are accepted.”
Kimbrough went on to compare a songwriter’s show to a preacher screamin’ “Tell it!”
“Sometimes the preacher is glad he told it, and sometimes he knows he shouldn’t have told it”
The irony in “Three Angels” comes from the “devils note” which is flatted 5th note you will hear in the main riff of the song. This note was banned by the Pope 400 years ago and people were actually executed for writing a song with it.
Standing across from Will at our barn wood Attic bar, as almost a makeshift bartender, chatting with a local amidst bottles of whiskey, I asked Will about the history of the music he played. From the roots of the simple music coined ‘americana’ ‘roots rock’ or ‘cow punk’ (one which I had never heard of) Kimbrough incorporated his own fine guitar work.
“The simple song is the best platform for a guitar solo,” he said. “Take blues for example.” Throughout small sips of Jack Daniel’s, Kimbrough went on to talk about the many genres that came out of the blues including country and gospel. “One ends on Saturday night and the other starts on Sunday morning,” a quote that stuck with me throughout the night. He cited influences from Ry Cooder to Duane Allman, people who took the simple song and incorporated great guitar work.
With the interview dwindling down, I asked the question I had been dying to ask, which was what Kimbrough thought of Nashville. A songwriter and guitarist who has been playing music since before I was born, I was curious to see his opinion on the state of country music, and the stereotypes that fit in with living and playing in Nashville.
“This is the best music community in the world,” Kimbrough says. Kimbrough explained how many different genres are included in Nashville’s best you just have to know who to talk to. Nashville has not only talent, but a “deep, deep well of people who have soul and who are willing to give everything to play music.”
Kimbrough likes the bar being high and it helping him always get better, with guitar and with songwriting.