#09 Junior Kimbrough

Week 2 of my top 10 series and number 9 on my list of favorite artists, Junior Kimbrough.

I like broken things. I like the look and sound and feel of broken things. I find myself constantly attracted to broken things. I especially like to take pictures of broken things. I find broken things disturbingly satisfying, probably a sign of my own brokenness. Nevertheless, I find brokenness beautiful.

Junior Kimbrough was a broken man. Few have heard of him, you can’t buy his music on the high street, but there are few artists I would rather listen to.

Junior was a blues singer and the blues are sad. The sound of his music is sad, and his words are sad. And I’m helplessly captivated by his lyrics as they paint pictures of a stark reality. In his song ‘Sad days, lonely nights’ he sings;

My momma told me
I was a child
She said, “Son,
You’re gonna have hard days”
My daddy told me too
He said, “Son,
You’re gonna have sad days
Lonely nights
Setting alone
Head hung down
Tears runnin’ down”

A negative sentiment if ever there were, yet he says these things very matter of fact, like with a sigh of acceptance. And when you can’t hear his words through his lazy drawl, you can understand the sense of his putting up with and getting on with life through the music. Through the way he plays his guitar, and through the way his band sluggishly churn out these repetitive, hypnotic grooves. It’s not a happy sound but I think it’s somehow uplifting. His words are an interpretation of and the music is a response to his life. It’s a way to utilise the brokenness and turn it into something of value, in and of itself. Even when the musicians make what might be considered mistakes, wrong notes, or a slight misjudgement of timing are part of what makes this music beautiful.

Now that I’ve depressed you all, I will share with you a glimpse of hope. A song that suggests Junior was a man who did actually long for more than what he settled for.

Junior Kimbrough, a man who understood his life, but a man who thought that life was all that it was, a man who knew how to tell it how it is…