Where There’s a Will

He had me at THIS. And by THIS I mean that CD that Will Kimbrough released in 2000 that told the world he was more than a mere sideman or band member. THIS was a superb debut album by a seasoned artist with a vision and the first of a string of striking statements that would have encompassed confessional folk music, sharp pop rock and alt-country twang. In the meantime, Kimbrough has become one of Nashville’s musical MVPs and recipient of an Americana Music Association instrumentalist of the year award.

Kimbrough hails from Mobile, Alabama and he was putting bands together from about the time his age had “teen” at the end of it. From 1984 to 1992 he toured the southeast as leader of Will and the Bushmen. Then upon moving to Nashville he teamed with the brazenly talented and funny rocker Tommy Womack to form the bis-quits, which recorded for John Prine’s Oh Boy! Records. Soon however, Kimbrough’s reputation as a guitarist and songwriter stretched him in a bunch of directions. He’s been right hand guitar slinger and singer for Rodney Crowell for years, and more recently he’s been a heavy collaborator with Jimmy Buffett. He’s also produced some fine albums on the Americana front, including Black Top Road for recent Music City Roots artist Angela Easterling. And recently, he’s reunited with Womack in the band DADDY, which made a splash at last year’s AMA conference.

So it was just a matter of time before we had Mr. K come lead a band on our stage, and we’re thrilled to have him on the occasion of the release of his new CD “Wings,” a generally serene and uplifting album that makes a tasty contrast to Will’s recent Americanitis album. That was the angry American Will; Wings is the contented Nashvillian.

But wait, there’s more, as there always is. Paired with Kimbrough like a fine wine with a good meal, we have the blood warming, gospel-infused artistry of singer/songwriter Ashley Cleveland. In some ways, Cleveland is to Nashville’s Christian music world what Kimbrough is to roots rock – a longstanding and huge contributor who pops up all over the place while also making serious solo albums. She’s been on more than 300 projects, toured with the great John Hiatt and, remarkably, won three Grammys for her rock gospel projects. Her newest is a set of interpretations of deeply rooted gospel songs purloined from the repertoires of folks like Rev. Gary Davis and Mahalia Jackson. We can expect a serious roof-raising at the barn.

Also this week, the cut-up old-time music of the Hot Seats from Richmond, VA and the beguiling harmonies and youthful exuberance of The Vespers, a two-brother, two-sister group who are blasting on to everyone’s radar here in Nashville. Sounds delicious.

Craig H

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