WHO’S YOUR DADDY? Will Kimbrough & Tommy Womack

As they say in Music City USA,
 it all begins with a song – and these Nashville cats got songs,
in spades.

 

BY REV. KEITH A. GORDON

 

Back when you kiddies were still watching Saturday morning
cartoons in your spidey PJs and eating chocolate-frosted sugar bombs by the
boxful, two nice young men from Kentucky, and
another from Alabama,
were playing in a critically-acclaimed rock ‘n’ roll band called the bis-quits.
Although these three gents had spun a wonderful collection of intelligent
garage-pop with blues-rock overtones and a soupcon of country twang, they were
soon forgotten, lost in the enormous commercial shadow of a bunch o’ guys from
Seattle named Kurt, Eddie, Chris and their, well, kinda grungy, flannel-clad friends.

 

Fast forward 16 years, and you’ll find Daddy, which is,
really, mathematically two-thirds of the bis-quits playing with some (talented)
pals. Over the past decade-and-a-half or so, the three nice young men – Will
Kimbrough, Tommy Womack, and Mike “Grimey” Grimes – have pursued
various fates in and out of the music biz. Grimes played for a while with
alt-country cut-ups Bare Jr. before escaping the industry’s clutches only to
open his much-lauded record store in Nashville (Grimey’s Music on Eighth – tell
’em the Reverend sent ya!).

 

Kimbrough has toyed around with a critically-acclaimed solo
career that has yielded four solid albums (and an EP), but his real
bread-and-butter has been touring and recording as a guitar-for-hire for folks
like Jimmy Buffett, Rodney Crowell, Todd Snider, and others. Womack, on the
other hand, has put his experience with the bis-quits and, previously, the much
beloved Kentucky cult band Govt. Cheese, to good use as a whipsmart, slightly
neurotic, constantly embattled solo troubadour, also with four acclaimed studio
albums (and a live disc) under his belt.

 

Daddy began as a one-off between friends and former bandmates,
their live 2005 album At the Woman’s Club documenting two nights’ shows in Frankfort,
Kentucky. As these things are
wont to do, demand for Daddy and the band’s growing popularity has resulted in For a Second Time, the official and
righteous Daddy studio debut. A ten-song collection of various Kimbrough and
Womack originals and a handful of collaborations between the two (and one
excellent total band effort), For A
Second Time
may well be the best collection of pure music-making that
you’ll hear come out of Nashville this year.

 

As they say in Nashville,
it all begins with a song – something forgotten long ago by the industry’s
Music Row – and Kimbrough and Womack are two of the best wordsmiths ever
snubbed by the biz. Both songwriters have been around the block a time or three
and suffered through the indignities and ignorance of men in suits with
corporate smiles, and their experience shines through their songs. The semi-biographical
“Nobody From Nowhere,” for instance, sounds like a John Hiatt outtake
circa Slow Turning, but with Kimbrough’s
slinky fretwork and great harmony singing between Kimbrough and Womack. The
song perfectly sums up the isolation of growing up in the rural South, where
everything is miles away from anything else, and dreams of the big-time are
tempered by simple pleasures.

 

Much of the rest of For
A Second Time
follows a similar tack, Kimbrough and Womack swapping lead
vocals on songs that are built around the former’s tempered optimism and the
latter’s wry sense of humor and joyful cynicism. “Early To Bed, Early To
Rise” is Womack’s advice to a younger generation, an
only-slightly-tongue-in-cheek warning about the rat race from a man that has
lived it firsthand. The New Orleans-tinged “Wash & Fold”
possesses all the funky soul of the Meters, Kimbrough mouthing a sly come-on to
a young lovely that is equal parts Ray Davies and Aaron Neville.

 

Of course, the Daddy guys also recognize a good song when
they hear it, and their loving cover of ’60s-era folkie Mike Millius’ “The
Ballad of Martin Luther King” provides the sort of intricate wordplay that
Womack excels at spitting out. The ode to the African-American hero is
especially ironic provided the band’s deep-rooted Dixie
sound, but these boys have always embraced equality in all things – especially
music – and the song’s folkie origins are amped up with squalls of harmonica,
bluesy guitarwork, and more than a little introspection.

 

The full band collaboration “I Went To Heaven In A
Dream Last Night” is a syncopated, almost stream-of-consciousness tale of
Womack’s brush with the almighty that evinces a dark sense of humor, manic
vocals, and more great throwaway lines and imagery than we can recount here
(although “a funny thing happened on my way to the grave, I didn’t burn
out and I didn’t fade away, my heart kept beating until the end of the
ride” is a pretty damn funny line). The band – which additionally includes
Paul Griffith on drums, Dave Jacques on bass and John Deaderick on keys – backs
it up with a funky-cool, twang-jazz soundtrack with lighter-than-feather cymbal
brushing, scraps of honky-tonky piano, and Kimbrough’s piercing six-string
notes. “He Ain’t Right” is another semi-autobiographical look back at
childhood and what it’s like to be smalltown different, the lyrics pounded home
above a muscular rhythm, bee-sting fretwork, and potent, gospel-tinged
keyboards.

 

Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack bring the best out of each
other, creatively, and with nearly two decades of friendship and shared musical
history to work off of, it should come as no surprise that they’re able to come
up with gem after gem. The three background guys in Daddy are no slouch,
either, but rather talented pros able to cut loose from their day jobs and spin
some fun, complex, and satisfying music behind their charismatic frontmen. Altogether,
For a Second Time adds up to more
than the sum of the individual band member’s talents; Daddy the best band that
you’ve never heard (yet).

 

 

Daddy on the web: www.myspace.com/daddytheband

 

[Photo Credit: Joshua Black Wilkins]

 

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