I Like It Down Here
Will Kimbrough’s I Like It Down Here hits the record stores on April 19 on Soundly Music. Special guests include Shemekia Copeland, Brigitte DeMeyer, and Sugarcane Jane. It’s his best album to date. There! I’ve said it. Touted as one of the industry’s top session players, Will is a musical animal on stage. Wills energy is unstoppable. His fans know it and drive far and wide to see him play that guitar and sing those songs. This is the first album that captures that live energy in a studio production and I like it down here boss just as much as you.
That last line is from the title song. A song that brings to life the characters you might find along the back roads of the rural south. Like the song, they are sweaty, swampy, and gritty. They break your heart and make you laugh and help you see that what’s important is finding your people.
“I like it down here boss just as much as you
The bilge water and the bus tub stew
I got a three legged dog and a one eyed buccaneer.
I like my homemade wine from a scuppernong
Smoking guns and drinking songs
Big steam trains and drunken engineers
I like it down here”
Will Kimbrough is a songwriter. Several of his songs are nominated for or have won awards this year already. If you can sum up Kimbrough’s songwriting with one word you would have to say they are real. These are songs about real places, real passions, real people, they are real good.
What makes this album great is its timing. Some of these songs have been part of Will Kimbrough’s live set for years. They never made it onto previous albums because they might not have fit the concept, but they were fan favorites from the start. Perhaps carrying them around on tour sweetened them to perfection. The studio recording may have been perfectly timed as well. Recorded during the rebound between life’s hard-knocks, these songs speak to love without necessarily being love songs. Is there a hint of Tom Petty in these songs? Perhaps. It certainly was a year for free fallin’.
Will Kimbrough is a producer. You can find his name in the liner-notes and behind the scenes of some of the music industry’s most revered artists. Will is a busy guy, but choosing to self produce was the right choice. Will sang, played guitar and stringed instruments, keyboards, harmonica and bass on “Alabama”. Bryan Owings provided drums and percussion. Chris Donohue played bass. Jim Hoke provided saxophone and horn arrangements on “It’s A Sin”. Shemekia Copeland sang on “Alabama”. Brigitte DeMeyer sang on “Buddha Blues”. Sugarcane Jane (Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee Crawford) provided vocals, guitar, and pedal steel guitar on “I’m Not Running Away”. Lisa Oliver Gray sang on “I Like It Down Here”, “When I Get to Memphis”, “Salt Water & Sand”, and “It’s a Sin”. Dean Owens sang on “Hey Trouble” and “Anything Helps” (which he co-wrote). Brad Jones mixed the record at Alex the Great in Nashville. Jim Demain mastered at Yes Master! In Nashville. Cameron Henry cut vinyl lacquers and stampers at Welcome to 1979, Nashville. The album was recorded at Blackbird Studios, Nashville, and at Will’s home. Photographs are by Chad Edwards, and the design is by Mike Delevante.
Will Kimbrough can sing and I Like It Down Here is a testament to that. His phrasing and range, combined with his multi-instrumentalist prowess translates to this solo album being multifaceted. That’s certainly the nature of being an Americana artist. The opening track “Hey Trouble” written with Rich McCulley has Blues language, a minor-key opening verse and a pop chorus. “I’m Not Running Away” has a driving country infused rock and roll vibe that professes a love for being on the run for the sake of pure running. “When I Get To Memphis”, also written with McCulley, is a song about realizing your running in the wrong direction, and is a pop infused rock song complete with that iconic Kimbrough slide guitar. The song of the year award-winning songwriting partnership with Dean Owens yielded the pop-folk ballad “Anything Helps” written as a response to reading a homeless persons sign in Nashville
Falling in love with a place that returns you to the real love, the human kind of love, that’s the essence of the ballads “Salt Water & Sand” and a song written with Jeff Finlin, “Star”. Will provides history lessons in song, lest we forget, through the soulful hollow-bodied guitar, horn and barrel-roll piano waltz-timed ballad “It’s A Sin”. A song written as a tribute to Harper Lee. “Buddha Blues”, written with Kate Campbell, is a trance-like middle-eastern slide guitar blues rocker about an alternative and peaceful approach to inmate rehabilitation in Alabama. The most haunting song on the album is the telling of one of the last lynchings in the United States. The Michael Donald in “Alabama (For Michael Donald)” was a few years older and a student at same High School as Will. It’s a personal story that needs remembering, especially given the events playing out in the streets today. Shemekia Copeland provides beautiful and at times mournful vocals.
Will Kimbrough and the artists on I Like It Down Here perfectly compliment every word written and every emotion felt . Never the grandstanding guitarist, Will speaks volumes in the notes he doesn’t play, in the way he pulls that slide across the strings, or adds that one note you hadn’t realized was missing. It’s the little things, the subtle additions that shine. In a year releasing really fine music, this is the finest. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
- Viola Krouse