Junior Kimbrough – You Better Run – Review

Junior Kimbrough

You Better Run (Fat Possum)
by Brian Varney

I’ve been a huge fan of Junior Kimbrough‘s music since I had the good fortune to be seized by a whim to pick up Most Things Haven’t Worked Out five or so years ago. I was hearing all kinds of noise around that time about all of the authentic bluesmen putting out raw, unschooled records on the recently-formed Fat Possum label, but this was the first of the small handful I checked out that I truly connected to. Unorthodox and idiosyncratic in many of the same ways as John Lee Hooker and yet sounding completely unlike him (or, really, anything else I’d ever heard), Junior’s songs seemed not so much the trite verse-chorus-verse twelve-bar templates that blues music has come to represent for most folks, but rather incantations, a summoning of a shadow-beast from the darkness of a deserted Mississippi hollow. Junior’s guitar lines snaked out droning, almost raga-like formations, verses dissolving directly into seemingly unplanned solos which would sometimes stretch to three, four, five minutes in length, majestically unfurling like smoke from a stick of incense before returning to verse, or to chorus, or to nothing. And it all felt so natural, so free of artifice, as casually summoned as if it required no more effort than pouring whiskey into a glass.

I know very little about Junior’s life, where or when or how he absorbed the combination of education and influence which resulted in the wondrous creations which ooze forth, easy as honey, and I suppose that’s a story for another day, but I sure wouldn’t mind knowing so I could track down the recordings (if they exist) of his teachers. Until that day arrives, though, You Better Run provides a fine overview of Junior’s life and career.

Beginning with the tarpaper demo “Release Me,” recorded at Junior’s juke joint in 1969 with Charlie Feathers, and composed primarily of material recorded during the 1990s (he died in 1998), You Better Run compiles songs from the three albums released on Fat Possum during his life and does a nice job of representing them all. There’s only one song from Most Things Haven’t Worked Out, the album I hold the dearest of the three, but if you’re interested once you’ve made your way through this collection, that album is your next recommended purchase.
(PO Box 1923 Oxford, MS 38655)