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music: On His Own

Multi-instrumentalist Will Kimbrough delivers more than just folk from his extensive repertoire.

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"It's music. It's up and down. But if you stick with your principals and have your proverbial s--t together then you'll always have work," the 38-year-old says, sounding like a guy with sights set.

Kimbrough has been a musically focused sort since he first turned on '70s radio and picked up the guitar at 12. He also started playing the piano and writing his first songs as a youngster growing up in Mobile, Ala.

"[The songs] were just there," Kimbrough explains. "I started making them up as soon as I got around musical instruments. I would just make things up. … I knew what I wanted to do then. I had my own bands from age 12 to 30."

With his band Will and the Bushmen in tow, Kimbrough hit Nashville in 1988. The group carved a niche in the national pop scene before Kimbrough formed the Bis-Quits. He eventually grew weary of "being married to the band" and in 1994 the father of two quit to head out on his own. But by then his ability to play almost any instrument he picked up had Nashville buzzing. When word got out Kimbrough no longer had his own group, sideman offers began rolling in. Rodney Crowell, Todd Snider, Allison Moorer and Billy Joe Shaver are a few of the artists who have hired Kimbrough for the road or studio.

"I went through a period when the phone kept ringing," Kimbrough says of the unexpected work.

But Kimbrough also continued writing and recording on his own and in 2000 he released the critically acclaimed "This." Now with the recently released "Home Away" gathering steam, Kimbrough is on a swing through the Mid-West and South. Wednesday he brings his tunes to Ashland Coffee & Tea. Kimbrough says he tries to mix up his solo shows by playing several instruments and drawing from an extensive repertoire that stretches from the Bushmen days to the new CD.

"I have a pretty broad palette of songs to pick from," Kimbrough says. "I try not to make it just the folk-singer guy."

Far from being merely the folk singer, Kimbrough's music at time echoes John Lennon, George Harrison, Randy Newman and World Party's Karl Wallinger as it floats with a gentle bite to the ears. Maybe Kimbrough wrestles with the emotional complexities of a tough modern world but he knows his musical talents are firmly rooted.

"I'm just…trying [to make] the dream come true. Now that I'm supposedly an adult I'm not 'trying to make music,' I am doing it." S



Will Kimbrough plays Ashland Coffee & Tea, 100 N. Railroad Ave., Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Call 798-1702 for information or visit www.ashlandcoffee-andtea.com

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