Junior Kimbrough Meet Me In the City

It’s typical of Matthew Johnson’s luck that the roster of his Fat Possum label can turn out to be more prolific dead than alive. A bit of an occupational hazard when you’re committed to the music of cranky, mostly unrecorded senior citizens whose reputation is a matter of rumour and gigs in ramshackle bars, storefronts and house parties. Junior Kimbrough was a local legend in rural Mississippi hill country for his raucous juke joint until his death two years ago. He recorded three albums for Fat Possum while he was alive, beginning with 1992’s All Night Long, and several months after he died a blistering set, God Knows I Tried, was released. Now, Johnson has dug a little deeper into the vaults for what amount to field recordings of Kimbrough. The first four tracks, in fact, were recorded in Kimbrough’s home, apparently in the early ’90s — just Kimbrough on vocals and guitar, accompanied only by the hum of his amp that haunts these tracks. It’s a dark, grotty sound even by the standards of authenticity cherished by Fat Possum and that only deepens the darkness of their brooding: blues lamentations whose tormented brooding is only deepened by the production murk that clogs their path. The remainder of these tracks is relatively clean concert recordings, including "Junior’s Place," "I Feel Alright" and "All Night Long," which will all be familiar to Junior’s fans. In contrast to the compelling bleakness of the earlier tracks these are the sorts of woozy, wound-out blues grooves that made Kimbrough as original and important, albeit under-acknowledged blues stylist as any who emerged in the past 20 years or so. (Fat Possum)