An Interview with Will Kimbrough

An Interview with Will Kimbrough

When I first heard Will Kimbrough on the Americana music cable channel, I was so impressed and I determined that I would learn about this man and his music. I wrote him about some lyrics for his song, “Interstate,” and that was when our correspondence began. His website is at and you can find out much about him there that I don’t have the space or time to cover, including his touring schedule, photos, and music. For example, his bio speaks of his work with such greats as Rodney Crowell, Adrienne Young (whose songs are also mentioned on this blog), and Jimmy Buffett. A guitarist, singer, writer–he is an important voice of Americana music. Will graciously consented to an interview and here are the results of that.

1. When did you begin writing songs (and I would assume poetry)? Tell my readers about your early music.

I got my first guitar when I was 12 and starting writing songs not long after that.  I started writing mainly because I could not figure out my favorite songs by ear.  When I started figuring out my favorite songs (Allman Brothers, Hendrix, Kiss, Stones, Aerosmith, etc), I stopped writing for a couple of years.  Then I started back at about 16, and never stopped.  I was really into your basic classic rock, and that was a good foundation.  But hearing artists like The Clash and Elvis Costello made me want to write songs.

2. What is your song writing process?

I try to write every day.  Sometimes, I am sitting with a guitar in my hand, or sitting at a piano, with a notebook and a pen, but a lot of days I am busy with kids and school and family and work, like studio work, or I am on tour and traveling from place to place.  During those times, I write down ideas, record snippets of song ideas, play guitar or piano whenever I have a few spare minutes.  Those little ideas have grown into some of my favorite songs.  Since I have become a husband, a Dad, a busy working musician, I have tried to make writing simply a part of every day.  I used to get frustrated if I was too busy to write, but now I just make the most of little moments and then try and make the best ideas into full-fledged songs when I have the time.

3. What advice would you give folk singers and songwriters today?

Make great music and don’t steal my gigs.

4. What musicians and songwriters were/are the greatest influence upon you?

The icons, of course:  Dylan, Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Hank Williams, Stax, Motown, Nashville, New York, LA in the 60s and 70s, punk rock, new wave, the great Texas songwriters, REM, Richard Thompson, Jamaican music, and all my great musician friends.

5. What projects are you working on currently?

DADDY “For a Second Time” came out in June; Jimmy Buffett’s “Buffet Hotel” comes out December 8th; my new solo CD, “Wings”, comes out February 23rd.

6. What trends do you see in Americana  and folk music happening today?

A lot of younger players have embraced some of the old time style.  And there are some pretty slick playing young bands.   But other than that, I don’t really know; i’m just listening for great songs with interesting arrangements that catch my ear, move my soul, make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

7. Tell about your songwriting workshops.

I admit to being a dreamer and an optimist.  If I wasn’t, I would have a hard time with the life of a traveling singer and picker.  When I talk about the process at a workshop, I tend to be pretty pragmatic.  To me, the fact of the matter is this:  if you really love to write and sing songs, you will be writing and singing, no matter if you are embraced or ignored by the music business.  So I just try and give some examples of how I put certain songs together, try and let folks know how important it is to be both open-minded and self-critical, yet somehow remaining free spirited enough to let the craziest ideas have a chance to be heard and developed.  Be brave with your ideas.  I hope it helps somebody out there.

8. Is there anything else the readers of this blog should know about you and your music?

I’m out there on tour and in your local groovy record shop and online too.  I play out on the road as much as possible.  I try to make a mood, keep a groove and dance the hully gully whenever applicable.

Here is a photo from Will’s site. Please visit his website and listen to his music. You will not be disappointed.

Will Kimbrough

Will Kimbrough

Magdalene: by Guy Clark, Chords and Lyrics

Good news for my blog. Coming soon is an interview with one of my favorite Americana folk singers, songwriter Will Kimbrough. Be looking for it! Today I wanted to post the lyrics and chords for another song by Guy Clark that I learned tonight. I hope it helps anyone who has been wanting to learn the song.

“Magdalene” by Guy Clark

I ain’t lookin’ for trouble E, Abm, A
I can’t stay here tonight E, Abm, A
I got to leave here on the double E, Abm, A
If I want to see the morning light E, Abm, A
Don’t need no pistol for the tickets E, Abm, A
I’ve got just enough to get us down the line E, Abm, A
I don’t know what happens next E, Abm, A
Your guess is just as good as mine E, Abm, A


Move with me, Magdalene C#m, B, A
I’m tired of the same old scene E, Abm, A
There’s a greyhound leaving at midnight A, B7
If you came with me it’d be like a dream E, A
Come on, Magdalene C#m, B, A
Move with me, Magdalene E, Abm, A


I’ve heard Mexico is easy
I wouldn’t stay here if I could
Don’t come along just to please you
Let’s go while the going’s good


Move with me, Magdalene
I’m tired of the same old scene
Let’s go down to San Miguel
Let’s go be somebody else tonight
Come on, Magdalene
There’s a greyhound leaving at midnight
If you came with me it’d be like a dream
Come on, Magdalene
Move with me, Magdalene

A Note on America Inspired by How the Irish Saved Civilization

When I read, Thomas Cahill’s, How the Irish Saved Civilization, I was struck by a passage that I wanted to include in my blog, a passage that is of great relevance to America. As I listen to and watch our blundering politicians and policy makers (of both major parties–Democrats and Republicans), I can’t help but think that maybe my friends in the Libertarian, the Constitutional Party, and the League of the South are right: The American political system is broke and can’t be fixed. Here is Cahill’s quote:

“There are, no doubt, lessons here for the contemporary reader.  The changing character of the native population, brouigh about through unremarked pressures on porous borders; the creation of an increasingly unwieldy and rigid bureaucracy, whose own survival becomes its overriding goal; the despising of the military and the avoidance of its service by establish families, while its offices present unprecedented opportunity for marginal men to whom its ranks had once been closed; the lkip service paid to values long dead; the pretense that we are still what we once were; the increasing concentrations of the populace into richer and poorer by way of a corrupt tax system, and the desperation that inevitably follows; the aggrandizement of executive power at the expense of the legislature; ineffectual legislation promulgated with grew show; the moral vocation of the man at the top to maintain order at all costs, while growing blind to the cruel dilemmas of ordinary life–these are all themes with which our world is familiar, nor are they the God-given property of any party or political point of view, even though we act as if they were . . . .” (pp. 29-30)

Shape-shifting and the Bible

Shapeshifting and the Bible

“[T]he Irish believed that gods, druids, poets, and others in touch with the magical world could be literal shape-shifters”–Thomas Cahill

When I present my Scots-Irish program, with the more mature grades I sometimes talk about shapeshifting in ancient Celtic and druid thinking. Of course, the Celts were not the only culture to believe that humans and gods could take on other forms. For example, Native American mythology is full of tales that illustrate this. The world religions, even Christianity holds it out as a possibility.  For example in the Bible:

1. According to the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 3, the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form at the baptism of Jesus.
2. Also in Luke, Chapter 24, Jesus appeared in “another form” to the disciples walking along the road.
3. Think too of God speaking to Moses from the burning bush.
4. Balaam’s donkey talking must have something to do with this.
5. Satan himself is said to be able to masquerade as an angel of light. (II Corinthians 11:14)
6. Angels frequently took (some say still take) on the form of humans. Hebrews 13:2 reminds us to show hospitality to strangers because some entertain angels unaware of the fact they’re dealing with a heavenly messenger.
7. Even the idea of incarnation, God becoming flesh, seems to me to be a form of shapeshifting.

I think these references are instructive and reminders that the ancient world religions had more in common than we might realize.

A Short Review: How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill

A Short Review: How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill

I didn’t know what to think when I first heard the title of this book. Was it meant to have a tongue in cheek meaning, or was it a serious work?  After all, the old joke goes, “Why did God invent whiskey?”  Answer: “So the Irish would never rule the world.”  However, when I saw the book’s subtitle, The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, I began to lean toward thinking it was a serious work.  And indeed it is a serious work. For anyone interested in history, especially early church history, this will be a fascinating and helpful read. My B.A. is in New Testament Greek, and though I knew much about the role the monasteries, monks, and scribes who built the libraries of Western Civilization and the Christian canon, I had never associated any of that with Ireland. Cahill’s work masterfully places Ireland in a context that most have never thought of. The book is rich with historical details and insights into the history of the Roman Empire, the Celtic world, Irish legends and mythology, and Church politics and policies that will intrigue the reader, and I found it a book that I was reluctant to put down, yet at the same time wanting to think on and research the points and allusions Cahill made. There are many details in this book that will enrich my Scots-Irish school programs that I do at schools, libraries, and festivals throughout the South.

The book is constructed with an Introduction; seven chapters; photographs, including two from the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells; a pronunciation guide to key Irish words; his bibliographic sources; a chronology; and his acknowledgments.

To read more about Thomas Cahill and his writing, go to this site:

Here is the MLA bibliographic entry:
Cahill, Thomas. How the Irish Saved Civilization. New York: Anchor Books, 1996.

Here are some of my favorite quotations from the book:

“After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan was heard to say that to be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart” (97).

“Fixity escaped these people, as in the end it escapes us all.  They understood, as few have understood before or since, how fleeting life is and how pointless to try to hold on to things or people.  They pursued the wondrous deed, the heroic gesture: fighting  . . . drinking, art–poetry for intense emotion the music that accompanied the heroic drinking with which each day ended, bewitching ornament for one’s person and possessions” (96-97).

“[Saint] Patrick found a way of swimming down to the depths of the Irish psyche and warming and transforming Irish imagination . . . (115).

“”[T]he Irish believed that gods, druids, poets, and others in touch with the magical world could be literal shape-shifters” (129).

When Skunks Are a Problem: How to Trap Them

At a rendezvous at Fort Washita in Oklahoma–oh, it must have been around 1999 or 2000, I talked with one of the sutlers there who made skunk caps (like a coonskin cap that David Crockett is pictured as wearing).  I asked him how he got his hides for the skunk caps–which he sold out of at every rendezvous, and they were high dollar items–and he shared with me the secret of trapping skunks. He had been often hired by schools and churches to trap troublesome skunks. If you can imagine a church or a school with a surfeit of skunks living there, you can see the problems that would create. Here’s how he said one should trap a skunk.  The problem with skunks is that no one in the city or county government wants to help you trap them. If you do find somebody, you’ll pay big bucks. Now, if you’re too sensitive and don’t see skunks as a pest, and are willing to live with their threat of rabies and odious odor should they choose to set up residence near you, and think of skunks only as love-lorn Pepe le Pews, you should probably not read on:

1. Buy a wire box trap from True Value Hardware. They’re not too expensive and you can use them for other pests such as coons and possums (I live in the garden district in Monroe, Louisiana, and have had to trap and execute 6 raccoons and one possum. They were literally EATING my house!)

2. Insert all but the entrance into a thick garbage bag.

3. Bait the trap with sardines. He said skunks loved sardines.  For coons I use a package of cat food.

4. If/when the skunk is trapped, scoop up the trap, tighten the end of the trash bag and pick up the trap. That way, you won’t get sprayed.

5. Have a 50 gallon barrel filled with water waiting nearby. Open the top of the bag enough to slip the wire cage containing the skunk into the barrel. The skunk will drown, and according to the mountain man who trapped skunks and other critters for a living, will not spray anything. You can then bury the dead skunk, dispose of him in some other way, or skin him and sell the hide (for a very good price) at the next rendezvous.

“Ten Pounds Short”: A Short Story by Rickey Pittman

Here is the short story that won honorable mention in the 24 hour short story contest I entered not long ago.

“Ten Pounds Short” by Rickey E. Pittman

Ellis B. slashed a diagonal line on that day’s date on the calendar. The annual Festival of Pumpkins in Paris, Texas was only a week away.

Ellis B. Evans, like his grandfather, grew pumpkins.  His grandfather had been killed by the Kiowa in 1871 in Young County, in what was known as the Warren Wagon Train massacre.  His grandfather and other teamsters had been hired to take supplies to Fort Richardson.  The two Kiowa chiefs, Satanta and Big Tree, killed most of the teamsters and tied Evans’ wounded grandfather to a wagon wheel and roasted him to death.

The Evans family then moved to Paris, Texas where many Welsh families had settled in the days of the Republic.

Ellis B. grabbed his denim jacket hanging on a peg in the hallway of his Jim Walter home. “I’m going to the pumpkin patch, then to town,” he said to his wife.

“Why am I not surprised?” she replied. “Tell your friend Jessie Fae hello if you see her in town. That woman is so stuck up. When I’m around her, she doesn’t pay me any mind. It’s almost as if I’m not there–or as if she wishes I weren’t there. If she thinks she can . . .”

“Oh, stop it,” he said. He tried his best to not slam the door as he left the house, but he didn’t succeed. Dorothy just didn’t understand. She didn’t understand his love of pumpkin farming.  Pumpkins were a beautiful fruit, both food and ornament, with skins of white, green, blue, red, and tan as well as the ubiquitous orange.  Ellis B. loved the roasted seeds, the bread, soup, candy and pies that pumpkins produced and he loved the stories about them in our holidays and legends.

Ellis B. intended to produce the largest pumpkin ever grown. So far, the largest had come from Rhode Island in 2006 and weighed 1502 pounds. He didn’t have to surpass that weight by much, but if he did, his name and his pumpkin would go down in history.

No, Dorothy–and yes, ironically she was from Kansas–did not understand his love for pumpkins. Nor did she understand Jessie Fae.  Of course, he didn’t know if he understood  either of these two women. He knew he had to sort things out quickly. If he did not, then circumstances would make the decision for him. His grandfather had always said, “To not make a decision, is to make a decision.”

He walked the field until he came to his prize pumpkin. He felt that the many weeks of obsessive tending and gentle turning ensured a blue ribbon at the Festival of Pumpkins. He imagined the envious stares of the other pumpkin farmers and his chest puffed and swelled with impending pride. He patted the pumpkin and said, “Soon.”

A gust of cold wind caused him to shiver, and he glanced up, watching the sky darken too quickly, the way it does in Texas when a blue norther was coming.  Another gust ripped through the treetops and bright, painted leaves whirled through the air and rained on his field of pumpkins.

Ellis B. heard an infant’s cry and turned his head. At the top of the hill, under the old Maple, he saw her silhouette. He began walking her way.  When he reached her, he could see the blue shawl he had given her, draped over her head and shoulders.  Her arms clutched a bundle to her chest, and she fumbled with the buttons on her blouse.

“Jessie Fae,” he said.

“Ellis B.,” she said. “I was afraid you wouldn’t come.”

“You knew I couldn’t say no to you. How is little Jimmy Dale?” He could see her shake from the cold. Her lips were blue and her teeth rattled slightly.

“He’s real sick, Ellis B.,” she said. “Won’t stop crying. You nearly caught me feeding him.”  She pulled her shawl tighter across herself, trying to shield the baby from the wind.

“You take him to the doctor right away.” He handed her a roll of twenty-dollar bills.

“Thank you.”

“Have you told her yet?” she asked.

“No. I was going to wait till after the Festival of Pumpkins.”

“Maybe I should have named your son Pumpkin instead of Jimmy Dale.”

“Don’t be like that. He’s your son too. I’m going to tell her.”

“And leave her?”

“Yes.”  He placed a hand on one shoulder and drew her close to him. “I swear I will. It will be just you, me, and little Jimmy Dale.” He looked over her shoulder at his fields, green foliage dotted with balls of orange.

“I’m not Cinderella, Ellis B. There’s no pumpkin in that patch of yours that’s going to turn into a fancy carriage to take me to the party. If I get out of this mess I’m in, it’ll only be because you took me.”

Ellis B. knew he couldn’t ask her to continue with their secret much longer. Nor did he think he could either.

He kissed her goodbye and returned home. He spent several restless nights that week, wrestling with the knowledge that these would be the last nights sleeping next to Dorothy. He knew love was not free. There’s always a price to be paid. If he wanted to be with Jessie Fae and little Jimmy Dale, then he would have to make the break.  Jimmy Dale needed a father.

Jessie Fae did take Jimmy Dale to the doctor. The doctor sent the baby to the hospital, and within a week, the baby had passed on.

Ellis B. won the blue ribbon at the festival, but came short of the world record by ten pounds—the exact weight of little Jimmy Dale when he died.

Jessie Fae moved to be with her parents in Abilene, and Ellis B. remained with Dorothy and began planning next year’s pumpkin crop.

Word Count 995