Junior Kimbrough

David ”Junior” Kimbrough (July 28, 1930 – January 17, 1998. Kimbrough was born in Hudsonville, Mississippi,and lived in the north Mississippi hill country near Holly Springs. His father, a barber, played the guitar, and Junior picked his guitar as a child. He was apparently influenced by the guitarists Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Eli Green (who had a reputation as a dangerous voodoo man). n the late 1950s Kimbrough began playing the guitar in his own style, using mid-tempo rhythms and a steady drone played with his thumb on the bass strings. This style would later be cited as a prime example of Hill Country Blues. His music is characterized by the tricky syncopation between his droning bass strings and his midrange melodies. His soloing style has been described as modal and features languorous runs in the middle and upper registers. The result was described by music critic Robert Palmer as ”hypnotic”. In solo and ensemble settings it is often polyrhythmic, which links it to the music of Africa. North Mississippi bluesman and former Kimbrough bassist Eric Deaton suggested similarities between Kimbrough’s music and that of Fulani musicians such as Ali Farka Touré. The music journalist Tony Russell wrote that ”his raw, repetitive style suggests an archaic forebear of John Lee Hooker, a character his music shares with that of fellow North Mississippian R. L. Burnside”.

Kimbrough came to national attention in 1992 with his debut album, All Night Long. Robert Palmer produced the album for Fat Possum, recording it in the Chulahoma joint, with Junior’s son Kent ”Kinney” Kimbrough (also known as Kenny Malone) on drums and R. L. Burnside’s son Garry Burnside on bass guitar. The album featured many of his most celebrated songs, including the title track, the complexly melodic ”Meet Me in the City,” and ”You Better Run”, a harrowing ballad of attempted rape. All Night Long earned nearly unanimous praise from critics, receiving four stars in Rolling Stone. His joint in Chulahoma started to attract visitors from around the world, including members of U2, Keith Richards, and Iggy Pop. R. L. Burnside (who recorded for the same label) and the Burnside and Kimbrough families often collaborated on musical projects.

Kimbrough died of a heart attack following a stroke in 1998 in Holly Springs, at the age of 67. According to Fat Possum Records, he was survived by 36 children. He is buried outside his family’s church, the Kimbrough Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, near Holly Springs. The rockabilly musician Charlie Feathers, a friend of Kimbrough’s, called him ”the beginning and end of all music”; this tribute is written on Kimbrough’s tombstone.