Home Read Albums Of The Week: Will Kimbrough | For The Life Of Me

Albums Of The Week: Will Kimbrough | For The Life Of Me


THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Folkies, even the ones with a good dose of country in their sound, tend to create quiet, introspective songs that are designed to pack a subtle but no less potent punch. Revered, multi-talented folk-Americana artist Will Kimbrough doesn’t quite fit that mold, and it is most evident on the 11 tracks that comprise For The Life Of Me, his eighth solo album. Here, Kimbrough crafted a batch of anthems with engulfing choruses and stinging musicianship. These songs rush into your consciousness and rattle your insides.

Kimbrough, a longtime collaborator with the late legend Jimmy Buffett and the co-writer of his posthumous single Bubbles Up, produced For The Life Of Me and recorded it primarily at Blackbird Studio in Berry Hill, Tenn., with engineer John McBride. Additional recording took place at his own Kimbrough Super Service Studio and Skinny Elephant Studio in Nashville. Kimbrough takes care of vocals, guitars, and keyboards on the record, while Chris Donohue handles the bass and Bryan Owings is on drums and percussion.

“This album is not afraid to closely examine the wreckage and ruin of the past and the present,” says Kimbrough. “But it also expresses gratitude for every breath, for those we love, those who are still here, and those who we have lost. In the end, it’s just another expression of love.”

For The Life Of Me opens strong with Walking In The Valley Of The Shadow, a Robbie Robertson / Band-inspired gem that uses its bluesy, gospel-tinged tone to impact lyrics about migrants, school shootings, and grieving mothers. I Don’t Want To Start A War, with its piercing guitar riffs and folk-R&B feel, tells the fictional yet reality based story of a college kid that discovers The Grateful Dead in the mid-1980s, becomes a devoted fan, only to later emerge on the other end of the societal pendulum as an insurrectionist at the capital in Washington D.C. Then, the title track goes full-on folkie as it recounts the heartbreaking, frustrating division we face in America today as well as across the world. But lest Kimbrough gets too somber, he offers us the single Every Day, a jubilant, spirit-lifting ode to gratitude, to the simple beauty in life and living.

It is Kimbrough’s keen sense of melody, lyrics, and crisp-yet-ambient production skills that no doubt attracted the late Buffett. Kimbrough was Buffett’s favorite co-writer for two decades, and shares five co-writes on his recently released poshumous album Equal Strain On All Parts. Bubbles Up is one of Kimbrough’s proudest moments with Buffett. Even Beatles legend Paul McCartney, who guests on Buffett’s new album, has publicly offered praise about Bubbles Up: “I told him that not only was the song great, but the vocal was probably the best I’ve heard him sing ever. He turned a diving phrase that is used to train people underwater into a metaphor for life. When you’re confused and don’t know where you are, just follow the bubbles — they’ll take you right up to the surface and straighten you out right away.”

Kimbrough worked as a songwriter and/or session musician on every Buffett album since 2004. In addition to Buffett — and a career with groups including Will And The Bushmen, Bis-Quits, and Daddy — he is also an in-demand record producer and sideman. He’s been a producer and songwriter for electric blues virtuoso Shemekia Copeland on her last three albums — America’s Child, Uncivil War and Done Come Too Far. The latter two were Grammy-nominated, and all three won multiple Blues Music Awards, Living Blues Awards, Downbeat Critic’s Poll honours and more.

Kimbrough has played and sung on tour with country legend Emmylou Harris, and he’s performed on albums by progressive country and folk artists such as Rodney Crowell, Gretchen Peters, Kate Campbell, Todd Snider, Kim Richey and Steve Forbert, to name a few.

Ultimately, Kimbrough has his eyes on the present and the future. “I’m in a new place in life, and this record reflects that,” he says. “I also think this new record is the last in the trilogy that started with 2019’s I Like It Down Here running through 2020’s Spring Break. I had to get all this out of my system. I can’t wait for people to hear it.”