Photo by Scott Preston
Think of Will Kimbrough as the Sherlock Holmes of songwriting — a sharp-eyed observer of humanity who notes every detail and spares nothing in his analysis. His new case study is Sideshow Love (released February 2014), a dozen songs that play out like a collection of smartly crafted short stories, laden with generous melodies and arrangements that balance virtuoso playing with just the right amount of space to let each of the characters within them breathe.
The theme is a familiar one: love. But what’s novel is the telling. Kimbrough’s perspective shifts effortlessly between sharp- and misty-eyed, from laughter to tears, as he weaves an arc through the stages of a romance over his eighth solo release’s course. Kimbrough had accumulated those songs while he was authoring a new chapter in his distinguished history as a sideman, playing guitar in Americana icon Emmylou Harris’ band. He’s also accompanied such songwriting luminaries as Rodney Crowell, Kim Richey and his longtime friend and accomplice Todd Snider — all the while never letting his own pen-craft lag. Kimbrough produced and recorded most of the album in his home studio, which he’s primarily used for demos in the past. He played acoustic and electric guitars, banjo and mandolin.
Although Kimbrough’s previous album Wings was released nearly four years ago, he’s been working like a locomotive. His exceptional abilities as a player, singer and performer have kept him in-demand. Until early last year, when Kimbrough decided to redirect his energy into his own projects, he’d spent most of the time since early 2011 traveling the world with Harris. He’s played guitar on tour and in the studio with Crowell, Richey, Gretchen Peters, Marshall Chapman and a host of others, plus Snider, with whom he still writes and plays. Kimbrough has also provided plenty of self- and co-penned cuts for a list of artists that includes Little Feat, Jack Ingram and a dozen numbers cut by Jimmy Buffett.
Kimbrough also recently added another band to his resume. Willie Sugarcapps, an aggregation of all-star indie songwriters that also features Grayson Capps, Corky Hughes, and Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee of the duo Sugarcane Jane, was formed last year after a particularly fertile meeting at a songwriter’s night at the Frog Pond in Silverhill, Alabama. The group released a debut album, called Willie Sugarcapps, in August 2013.
Since its release, Sideshow Love has drawn huge accolades in both Americana and mainstream circles, and has reached #10 on the AMA radio chart. In addition, Kimbrough was #2 in the Top 21 Alternate Root roots guitar players.
“Kimbrough is highly sought after as a musician, songwriter and producer – a reason Sideshow Love is his first solo album since 2009’s Wings. This thoroughly charming album – filled with expertly crafted, wonderfully heartfelt songs filled with passion, pain, humor and hope – does make one wish that Kimbrough finds more time to devote to his own work.”—American Songwriter
“Will Kimbrough is one of the most expressive guitarists in the Americana realm. Whenever his name is listed in liner notes, I’m pretty sure I’m going to like the record. And now his newest solo album, Sideshow Love, lets his personality shine through his songwriting, too.”—CMT Edge