Album Review

Various Artists - Sunday Nights: The Songs Of Junior Kimbrough

Various Artists - Sunday Nights: The Songs Of Junior Kimbrough

In these cynical times, with authenticity an ever-dwindling commodity, the likes of an aging yet untapped talent such as Junior Kimbrough happen about once in a lifetime. An under-recorded Mississippi juke-joint troubadour with hard-bitten songs and a modal guitar style (think Mississippi Fred McDowell), Kimbrough was ultimately discovered by the world at large in Robert Palmer's 1991 film Deep Blues.

Kimbrough recorded a handful of albums in the last decade of his life (he died in 1998) that documented both his wily songwriting and his willfully raw sound, making fans among the crowd of bluesy, scuzzed-out garage rockers present here.

Foremost among them is Iggy Pop (with the reconstituted Stooges), who (twice) trample the scarifyingly psychotic "You Better Run" with a turbo-charged, rusted-out blues as if it were Detroit 1969 all over again. Sunday Nights is a strong set throughout, though, and artists from Spiritualized to Jim White consistently search for the dark mystery of Kimbrough's sometimes creepy songs.

Fans of 1965-era Rolling Stones will gravitate to Thee Shams' crunchy dance/R&B groove on "Release Me", while Screaming Trees alum Mark Lanegan successfully plumbs the depths of Kimbrough's bizarre interweave of sex and God on "All Night Long".

The Black Keys' elliptical "My Mind Is Ramblin'" best reflects the spirit of Kimbrough's trance-like vision. Its simple rhythms and moaning vocals, along with Dan Auerbach's piercing guitar leads that somehow manage to be both fuzzily distorted and achingly pure, capture Kimbrough's essence in all its messy glory.