Song of the Day: Junior Kimbrough “All Night Long”
Junior Kimbrough is one of those blues men in whom you can feel the full weight of the world in his voice. His every vocal intonation and the snaking guitar line that underpins it speaks to an experience of unfathomable yearning and misery. Kimbrough was always one of the more obscure bluesmen (overshadowed by many of his contemporaries), but his music remains equally compelling to that of his more celebrated peers. While many of the bluesmen that went electric modified their sound and picked up more of the swagger of the Chicago blues sound, Kimbrough remained rooted firmly in the swampy weirdness of the delta.
Kimbrough never really released albums during much of his lifetime (apart from a brief flurry of recording for Fat Possum Records in the years just before his death in 1998), but he was able to record a handful of singles. “All Night Long” remains one of his best known songs and it is incredible. The song is as tightly focused and as driving a 5 minutes and 50 seconds as you are likely to hear anywhere. Kimbrough‘s singing and guitar playing are almost perfect mirrors of each other. Much like B.B. King, Kimbrough‘s guitar playing is an extension of his voice and vice versa. It becomes hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The song itself is almost hypnotizing.
Junior Kimbrough was born David Kimbrough Jr. in Hudsonville, Mississippi circa 1930. He grew up playing the guitar, strongly influenced by other country blues greats, including Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mississippi Fred McDowell. While he gigged frequently and recorded singles sporadically throughout his lifetime, it wasn’t until his discovery and championing by music critic and Robert Palmer that Kimbrough began to gain greater notoriety outside of the North Mississippi juke-joint circuit where he had played. Palmer identified the unique qualities in Kimbrough‘s singing and playing and realized the extent to which Kimbrough had influenced a lot of the music, both blues and rockabilly that had come out of the region. This resulted in a deal with Fat Possum in which Kimbrough was finally able to lay down recordings of many of the songs that had helped make him a regional legend. Collaborating with English director Robert Mugge and musician David A. Stewart, Palmer also narrated a documentary film about the music of North Mississippi, entitled Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads, that prominently featured Kimbrough.
Bonus! Also check out this incredible live take of the song from Deep Blues with opening narration by Robert Palmer: