"Just when you thought that the only blues being recorded today was the slick, canned kind, along comes Junior Kimbrough. Kimbrough isn't exactly a new artist – he's been playing the blues and running a Mississippi juke joint for some thirty years – but All Night Long is his debut album. And what a debut it is.
Don't expect Kimbrough's blues to be deep in the down-home folk-blues tradition. All Night Long is laced with rocking rhythms and long, trance-inducing electric-guitar passages that are like nothing you've heard before. With the exception of the opening tracks, "Work Me Baby" and "Do the Romp," and the clincher, "Slow Lightnin'," which feature Kimbrough solo, creating spidery guitar riffs as a backdrop to his field-holler-inspired vocals, the album is unadulterated juke-joint dance music. The songs are brutally honest and juiced with a fervor that will shiver your soul as sure as move your feet.
Backed by the Soul Blues Boys – bassist Garry Burnside and drummer Kenny Malone – Kimbrough sketches landscapes of strange emotional magnitude. Using eerily constructed, haunting guitar licks that one minute recall the boogie badness of John Lee Hooker and the next bring to mind the irregular and detached guitar musings of Robert Pete Williams, Kimbrough's mission is clear: Make the blues mean something.
On "Meet Me in the City" and "Nobody but You," Kimbrough serves up stark, plaintive vocal phrases that perfectly complement his guitar work. "Done Got Old" and the title track blister with feeling and Mississippi funk. Kimbrough's lyrics are hardly poetic; they're simply put and delivered. Yet because of the way in which he shapes them – using wails and moans to accent his desires – they reveal volumes about the human spirit.
Few albums recorded during this current blues revival are as original or intense as All Night Long. Produced by blues scholar and Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Robert Palmer and recorded at the juke joint Kimbrough owns, these performances confirm that in the right hands the blues are still one of America's most vital musical forms."
- ROBERT SANTELLI
Artists in this story: Junior Kimbrough