Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Sunday Nights: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough (Fat Possum, 2005)

Tribute albums are a dime a dozen these days, but Fat Possum takes a bit of a different track in this tribute to Mississippi juke legend Junior Kimbrough by recruiting a bunch of indie rock heavyweights to interpret his songs. The musicians take things in a number of ways, some working better than others, bit all in all this is one of the more memorable tributes of recent years.

Iggy and the Stooges bookend the record with two different versions of Kimbrough’s “You Better Run,” and really make quite an impact spitting out Kimbrough’s lyrics about a woman on the run from a rapist. Iggy may not be eating glass any longer, but he is still as disturbing as ever. The blues influenced bands like The Black Keys and the Blues Explosion have the easiest time slipping into the material doing nice versions of “Meet Me In The City” and “My Mind is Rambling” respectively. Some of the most interesting tracks on the disc come from bands you wouldn’t expect. Spiritualized does a spaced out and trippy version of “Sad Days and Lonely Nights,” while art-poppers The Firey Furnaces cover “I’m Leaving.”

While not every track works (what tribute would be complete without a few clinkers?) most of the material works surprisingly well. Kimbrough’s drone based music and ominous lyrics offer a wealth of possibilities for the musicians to use. Hopefully this will inspire the fans of the bands in this collection to go back and discover Kimbrough’s own superb work.

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