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Album Review

DADDY
for a second time

I can't help but wonder if Will Kimbrough misses the old days. Before record labels and before music became business. When he lived on a farm outside Mobile, Alabama playing music whenever and however he and his buddies wanted, sometimes all day and all night. In those days, the band had no name, but they soon became Will & the Bushmen.

That might not mean much to you but at one time, 20 years ago, they were the supposed Great Hope for SBK Records, the much-hyped small-but-supposedly-viable label put together by three guys who parleyed the purchase of CBS' music publishing arm into what they hoped would be major label greatness. They expected the success overnight. Capitol, who distributed the label, felt the pressure. When the album hit the street, the campaign of hype, political and business intrigue, and the struggle for airplay in a glutted pop market very quickly became more about the label than the band and Will & the Bushmen were for all practical purposes left for dead on the roadside. A second album, licensed to a smaller label, failed to approach major label numbers in sales and the band, released from their contract by SBK, split.

Of course, that is the Cliff's Notes version (the why's and wherefore's are much more complicated and too involved to go into here), but it should give you basics enough. Needless to say, Kimbrough's attitudes toward the record business changed after the SBK period and business as presented by labels took backseat to the music itself.

Tommy Womack began his musical life with Government Cheese, a semi-punk bar band based in Kentucky. According to his entertaining and sometimes hilarious book, Cheese Chronicles: the true story of a rock 'n roll band you've never heard of, the band was almost an afterthought. Serious music? He didn't think so then, writing songs based on school lunch menus and whatever else struck his fancy. The band's local and regional popularity, though, made him rethink and what the hell--- he didn't have much else going on, so...

In '92, Womack and Kimbrough crossed paths when they formed The Bis-quits, in which both explored the roots. After the band split in '94, Womack went on to write the aforementioned book as well as keeping his music career intact with a variety of projects, and Kimbrough applied himself to his craft with a vehemence, working with a slew of topnotch artists as both musician and producer (Rodney Crowell, Kim Richey, Adrienne Young and Todd Snider, to mention but a few). In 2005, they teamed up again and Daddy was born and, while they keep individual projects going, they've been with us since.

Older and a bit more mature (it has been 20 years-plus, after all) Kimbrough and Womack hit the ground running for their second effort, For a Second Time, and reach back for those roots. It's all here--- Kimbrough and Womack's penchant for Pop mixed with a pile of influences, song by song--- N'awleans shuffle (I Went to Heaven in a Dream Last Night), Southern Blues (I Want To Be Clean), Walking Blues (Hardshell Case) with slight Momma Told Me Not to Come guitar, Southern Shuffle (Love in a Bottle, smoothed out Tony Joe White rhythms and primo catchy lyrics).

Sure, it has a flavor of the South, but when you put this much talent in one band, it is never about one direction. These guys can play and play they do, with solid bedrock provided by Paul Griffith (drums) and Dave Jacques (bass), outstanding keyboard work by John Deaderick, and of course, Womack and Kimbrough. Try as I can, I cannot find but a few hints of Will & the Bushmen, though Nobody From Nowhere has a bit of the old power pop magic.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Tommy Womack's new book, especially after the pure pleasure of Cheese Chronicles. It's titled The Lavender Boys and Elsie and the publicity reads “a fictional collection of letters documenting the Civil War's only all-gay Confederate regiment, grisly murders at home, a well-accessorized Christmas show and the real reason for Pickett's Charge.” I can't wait to read it. Only Tommy Womack would include a Civil War Christmas show, well-accessorized, amidst the horrors of war and murder, but that makes Womack who he is.

As an afterthought, a good friend of mine gave me a copy of Cheese Chronicles years ago. He met Womack at an in-store, was impressed with what a truly nice guy he was, and bought five copies which he gave to his five best friends. When he handed me mine, he said simply “Read this. It was written by one of the nicest guys I've ever met.” Coming from one of the nicest guys I've ever met, that was high praise, indeed.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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