Nashville singer-guitarist Will Kimbrough has announced plans to release his new album I Like It Down Here on April 19th, his first solo LP since 2014’s Sideshow Love. Today, the Americana Award-winning performer is previewing the release with a pair of new songs: the haunting “Alabama (for Michael Donald),” which features blues singer Shemekia Copeland, and the melodic rocker “Hey Trouble.”
In “Alabama (for Michael Donald),” the Mobile native — a longtime Nashville resident and former sideman with Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell and Todd Snider — sings about the horrific murder of an African-American man by the Ku Klux Klan in his hometown. As the nightmare progresses, the music grows more foreboding and cavernous, with echoing Dobro and drums that complement the desolation of Kimbrough and Copeland’s vocals.
“’Alabama (for Michael Donald)’ was written across the Atlantic Ocean after Dean Owens sent me a little iPhone recording from Scotland,” says Kimbrough. “I had the shockingly recent lynching of Michael Donald — 1981, the resulting civil suit bankrupted the largest KKK organization in America — on my mind and simply had to tell the story in song.”
“Hey Trouble,” on the other hand, is much lighter in tone and subject matter. With jangling electric guitar, harmonica and stacked chorus harmonies, it sounds much more like classic power pop even as it evokes the down-so-low spirit of the blues in its lyrics. “I’ve got trouble by my side/Hey trouble, let’s go for a ride,” he concludes in each chorus.
“’Hey Trouble’ is pure fun, playing with the language of the blues with a heartfelt tip of the hat to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ irresistible jangle and hooks,” says Kimbrough.
I Like It Down Here initially began as a love letter to the place where Kimbrough grew up and started his musical career. But in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, Kimbrough began to confront the area’s past injustices and the attitudes that still linger in the present.
“I feel so at home here, I love the people, the culture, the food and particularly the music,” he says in a release. “How could I feel so at home and still disagree with most Southerners’ politics? So I wrote this record out of love and confusion. But mostly love.”