Professionals in the music business--well, in the business of playing music, have some kind of instinctive drive to perform, even in the worst situations. There might be a slim crowd, issues with the sound system, or maybe the artist isn't feeling well. Will Kimbrough, a true professional, does not like to cancel gigs.
In the summer of 2014, Will toured the West Coast with Rodney Crowell and Jedd Hughes. California shows included The Troubadour (West Hollywood) and Slim's in San Francisco. He then played a solo show at Coast Recorders in San Francisco the next day. Our family flew down to see the show at Slim's before joining them again at Seattle's Triple Door.
While we were out touring Fisherman's Wharf, he was trying to build up the strength to perform that night on no food or sleep due to a nasty bout of food poisioning he caught after his Troubadour show. When we met up with him at Slim's, he looked like "death warmed over", as my mother would say, and was certainly not his jovial, talkative self. But he managed to pull off a stunning opening set to an enthusiastic crowd, letting his musical instincts take over. There was a raspy grit to his voice, but he nailed the notes in his upper register. After a short break, Will had to perform with Rodney and Jedd for almost two hours. He must have been running on pure adrenaline.
Instead of resting and recovering on his day off after Slim's, he recorded this gem, Live At Coast. Will reflects, "By the time I got to Coast, I hadn't slept or eaten in 40 hours. I rallied when the 60 or so audience memebers arrived, looking excited and interested." Will, along with producer and recording engineer Michael Romanowski wanted to produce a solo record "...without any guitar pickups, looper pedals--no gimmicks. And that sounded good to me," Will states, in the liner notes of the CD. "When it came time to actually do it, I was a tad intimidated, especially considering my dreadful state. But it got rolling. It sounded amazing in Coast Recorders--super nice microphones, a legendary Neve mixing console, 2" 16-track analog tape rolling. Did I mention that Michael Romanowski cares about the quality of recorded sound?"
The outcome of that recording session is eighteen beautiful songs, with just Will and his guitar. It's a live, greatest hits collection, spanning two decades which digs deep into his prolific catalog as a solo artist and collaborator.
Will begins the long session with a few songs from his latest solo album Sideshow Love, released around Valentine's Day 2014. "Let The Big World Spin" shows off his incredible slide prowess. His expert guitar picking fills the room with sound on songs like "I Want Too Much" and the title track, "Sideshow Love", and later on a couple of killer songs from Daddy (Will's collaboration with longtime friend Tommy Womack), "I Don't Like It" and "Nobody From Nowhere".
"Gypsy Train", a tender song about a troubadour following his muse (co-written with Miles Zuniga), and "Trouble" are from the self-titled Willie Sugarcapps. The award-winning band (Best Americana Album of 2013 by Independent Music Awards) sprung up from the muddy waters of Lower Alabama when Will, Grayson Capps, Corky Hughes, Anthony Crawford, and Savana Lee jammed together one night at The Frog Pond. A Lower Alabama supergroup. Missing on this recording are the goosebump-inducing harmonies.
He flies back in time for the second half of the set, which includes his earlier solo work and collaborations with other singer-songwriters. "Big Big Love" (with Jeff Finlin), "Horseshoe Lake" (with Todd Snider), "Goodnight Moon" (with Gwil Owen), and "This Modern World" sound even more emotional stripped down to just Will and his guitar, and the occasional cry of his harmonica.
"Piece of Work", a song of opposites and bluesy riffs from Home Away (2002), is where it all started for me. I first heard Jimmy Buffett sing a countrified rendition of that song from License to Chill on Radio Margaritaville. At some point, they played Will's version on the program, and I quickly realized Jimmy covered his song. Will Kimbrough is mentioned in the fine print of the CD's liner notes.
The soulful evening concludes with the title track from "Wings", another song of a dozen he's recorded with Jimmy Buffett.
A master at his craft, Will Kimbrough managed to perform a stellar collection of live songs in a physical state that would flatten most men. No gimmicks necessary.
For More Information on Will Kimbrough: http://willkimbrough.com
For tour dates: http://willkimbrough.com/events/
For Merchandise, including a CD/DVD bundle of Live At Coast: http://willkimbrough.com/store
Check out Willie Sugarcapps here: http://www.williesugarcapps.com/
Check out Michael Romanowski and Coast Mastering here: http://www.coastmastering.com/
Black/white photo taken at Slim's, San Francisco. Photo Credit: Jacob Knight
Support the independent artists who venture to your city and play small clubs and venues. Support those singer-songwriters mentioned in the fine print.