09
Jan
10

Kimbrough soars high with Wings


Will Kimbrough’s Wings – an OKOM review

On first listen of Will Kimbrough’s album Wings, (due to be released February 23rd) it felt like a pleasant trip that started with being invited into his home, given a comfortable chair in a sunroom, and a hot cup of coffee. As the morning light streaked in, and the children played, I kicked back, relaxed, and absorbed this enjoyable, stimulating soundtrack of his thoughts; a world filled with hope, optimism, questions, miracles, and love. If this album represents Will’s life, and his sense of wide-eyed wonderment and appreciation of what fills his life; then he is truly a blessed man.

Wings starts with Will roused into the dawn of a new day by his wife and two daughters, whom he warmly refers to as his “Three Angels.” Julie Lee lends her pure backing vocal talents to the heartening opening track “Three Angels,” in which Will counts his blessings – all three of them – and is grateful for all his angels do to make his life complete, and for watching over him wherever he goes. Now, a lesser man might consider being the lone man in a houseful of females more of a curse. Will knows they’re only human – “sometimes in the morning they’re a moody band of angels” – but they’ll always be real angels in his eyes.

In “You Can’t Go Home,” co-written with Jeff Finlin, Will tells a mystifying old world type tale –wrapped in the musical textures of a steady pulsing Celtic beat, the lingering tone of Sarah Siskind’s accompaniment, and punctuated by a haunting guitar – of characters with a raw unresolved past. The line – “She cannot hear or say goodbye, or hear your heart break right in two, she cannot waive the angry years, what you said, forgive you too” – stabs into a wandering lost soul, left broken-hearted and alone. The mystery is – what tragedy brought him to this pain and guilt shrouded world?

You’d be hard pressed to find a more optimistic song than the title track “Wings.” This is the original version, lyrically different from the one co-written with Jimmy Buffett that appears on his latest album Buffet Hotel. The airy effortless instrumentation of this lifting version perfectly fit what this song is all about – unbridled buoyancy and self-faith. Personally, I like Will’s version much better, and this comes from a long time Parrot Head.

Will Kimbrough is a master of baring his heart and soul in a love song. “Love to Spare” is no exception. He’s always there with words of comfort – even through the rough times – for the one he loves… “Take me in when storms are raging; I’ll calm you when you’re feeling crazy.” Guys, if you ever need to put consoling words in a card to your love, pull them from this song. You won’t be sorry.

In addition to “You Can’t Go Home,” there are two other songs on Wings that Kimbrough co-wrote with Jeff Finlin, “The Day of the Troubadour” and “Big Big Love.” Will and Jeff color these songs with complex, absorbing, thought provoking lyrics; coming together like fine glasses of wine. Not everyone will get the same message; see the same picture; or taste the same flavors. You’ll want to listen to them again and again, possibly finding something new or different each time.

Have you ever thought of what it could have been like if Jesus had lived in the modern world? Hey, for all we know, he may have; this is a subject that “The Day of the Troubadour” explores. Jesus traveling for years, riding the bus from town to town, performs little miracles along the way, until the interest in him begins to fade. He dreams – from the bed of a cheap motel – of his followers still wanting more. The same story could also apply to any number of extremely talented performers that spend the majority of their life on the road sharing their own form of miracles, and baring their souls.

Miracles happen around us all the time, most of the time they slip by unnoticed, but they’re there nonetheless. “Big Big Love” is a skillfully crafted song that takes us on a walk through an old growth forest of life’s little miracles; lost time; quests for love; and unfulfilled dreams – “I tried to be the big man with a knuckle and a tin can, with the knowledge and a big plan, holding onto Wonderland. I held so tight, I lost you there; I looked so hard, I couldn’t see; I let it go and fell alone, and it was there in front of me.” – discovering aspects of life that were there all the time.

Will has co-written quite a few songs with Todd Snider. He’s pulled one out of an old box in the attic to share with us. “It Ain’t Cool” has never been recorded by Todd or Will until now. Contrary to its title, it’s a very cool J.J. Cale style tune, simple in structure, with an even simpler message – don’t bad-mouth people when they’re not there to defend themselves, it ain’t cool!

Will’s appreciation of old school R&B is evident in the arrangement of “Open to Love” co-written with Dave Zobel. Building on a slow solid backbeat, it’s full of big horns, great big backing vocals by Jonell Mosser and Lisa Oliver Gray, and wailing guitar work by Kimbrough. It’s an expressive, driving “hard times” love song – that Will does so well – preaching of hanging on to love, letting it carry you through obstacles life can throw your way. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear this performed someday by a soulful Southern Baptist choir with hands held high towards the heavens.

Slowing down to a gentle walk down a tree-lined street, Wings takes us back to being with loved ones. Relationships have taken on many analogies through songs. “Let Me Be Your Frame,” co-written with Sarah Kelly, sung in beautiful tandem with Dawn Kinnard, portrays a relationship as a canvas – a work in progress maybe – and the frame that surrounds, and at the same time, compliments it. If you think about it, in a give-and-take relationship, you can’t help but splash each other with a bit of color or lend a simple stroke of a brush, adding texture and beauty to each other without taking anything away.

The final track on Wings, “A Couple Hundred Miracles,” brings us full-circle. We’re back in the quiet, comfortable safe haven of home. In the calm morning, warming your hands around a cup of coffee, it’s a time to reflect on the journey. “A Couple Hundred Miracles” – inspired by the book The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, and co-written with Irene Kelly (Sarah’s mom) – tells of taking what life gives you – with appreciation and amazement – making the most out of it, with a smile on your face, and no regrets. Beautifully simple in its arrangement of Will on vocals and guitar, and David Henry on a warm, soothing cello. Personally, this wonderfully stirring song is my absolute favorite track on this release.

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3 Responses to “Kimbrough soars high with Wings”


  1. January 10, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Hello Blake,
    Thank you for your interest in my radio show. I took a look at your blog site and enjoyed reading your interview with Will Kimbrough. He definetly sounds like our kind of music. I would love to get a copy of his CD “Wings”. You can send it to me at KRVM. Also keep me informed if he is planning on performing in Eugene. I would be happy to have him on my show.

    Thanks for listening.
    Tim Little
    KRVM 91.9 FM
    Routes And Branches

  2. February 8, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Heard radio play down in San Antonio and I really liked it. Can’t wait for the album to come out. I normally listen to Coldplay or The Black Crowes.


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