Various Sunday Nights: The Songs Of Junior Kimbrough

When Fat Possum’s Matthew Johnson and Bruce Watson finally coaxed aging Mississippi bluesman Junior Kimbrough to make albums in the early ’90s, it was unimaginable that it would lead to this, a 16-track tribute by a who’s who of alternative rock. Like his contemporary, R.L. Burnside, Kimbrough (who died in 1998 at the age of 62) played with a rawness that was miles away from the slickness of the Stevie Ray Vaughan-age of blues, but had much more in common with punk and grunge. Not surprisingly, Iggy Pop was also an early devotee, and this release allows him another opportunity to get his rocks off with the reunited Stooges on two versions of the disturbing rape song, "You Better Run.” Others like the Blues Explosion and the Black Keys are also expectedly down with Kimbrough’s primitive groove. But the unexpected standout tracks prove to be Spiritualized’s spacey take on "Sad Days Lonely Nights,” The Fiery Furnaces’ dense, Velvet Underground-like construction of "I’m Leaving,” and Mark Lanegan’s brooding interpretation of "All Night Long.” What is most satisfying about this record is that, whereas Kimbrough’s own performances could get tediously repetitive if a listener wasn’t prepared, all of these tracks push the artists to turn in some of the liveliest recordings they have ever done. Junior would have approved. (Fat Possum)