Sound Observations: Will Kimbrough’s ‘I Like it Down Here’ reflects his conflicting views about his home state
Will Kimbrough "I Like It Down Here"
By Dan Armonaitis
Arts & Entertainment Writer, Spartanburg Herald Journal
Posted Apr 9, 2019 at 4:00 PM
A few years ago, I spoke by phone with musician Will Kimbrough for a
story I was writing about Greer-based singer-songwriter Angela
The Alabama-born, Nashville, Tenn.-based
Kimbrough had produced a couple of Easterling’s albums, and we mostly
spoke about that working relationship. Among other compliments, he said
that Easterling “writes great songs, and I think she’s got a really cool
vision that’s not just your average everyday thing.”
in addition to that part of the conversation, we also talked a little
about baseball, and what I remember most is him telling me that he had a
vintage baseball card of Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente on a shelf that
he sometimes looks at for inspiration. Clemente, whose career ended
with exactly 3,000 hits, famously died in a plane crash at age 38 on
Dec. 31, 1972, while attempting to deliver humanitarian aid from his
native Puerto Rico to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
I’m not sure if that card played any role in inspiring the songs that
comprise Kimbrough’s new solo album, which will be released by Soundly
Music on April 19, but I certainly like to think it did in some small
“I Like it Down Here,” after all, is a solid
all-star worthy effort that comes across to my ears as the sonic
equivalent of Clemente gracefully chasing a deep fly ball and then
turning to make a canon-like throw to third base to nab a runner trying
In other words, Kimbrough makes things
look easy throughout an album that’s a reflection of his conflicting
views about his native state that he loves dearly despite its problems.
the album includes some fantastic, instantly catchy tracks such as “Hey
Trouble,” “I’m Not Running Away” and “When I Get to Memphis,” it’s the
more pensive material that packs the biggest punch.
to Easterling’s song, “Isaac Woodard’s Eyes,” which she wrote about an
African-American World War II veteran who, in 1946, was savagely beaten
by police in a small South Carolina town ”’til they’d robbed him of his
sight,” Kimbrough tackles an example of his own state’s racist history
in a song called “Alabama (For Michael Donald).” Written from the
first-person perspective of the victim of one of the last lynchings in
the U.S., which occurred in 1981, the song tears your heart out
And then there’s the gospel-tinged “It’s a Sin,” which
contains a recurring line about it being a sin to kill mockingbirds that
comes across as much more than a veiled social commentary concerning
Kimbrough, who is one of the Music City’s most
revered contemporary musicians, recently produced and played on
Shemekia Copeland’s latest release, “America’s Child,” which is up for
Album of the Year at the Blues Music Awards to be announced on May 9.
One of the tracks, “Ain’t Got Time for Hate,” was co-written by
Kimbrough and earned a nomination for Song of the Year.
On Kimbrough’s new album, Copeland provides backing vocals on “Alabama (For Michael McDonald).”