Josh Kimbrough “Slither, Soar & Disappear” (Tompkins Square, 2020)

A side effect of lockdown is how many of us have begun to notice nature either for the first time or perhaps just more than usual. If that curiosity extends to how these perceptions might be set to music then listen no further than ‘Slither, Soar & Disappear’ by guitar virtuoso Josh Kimbrough. Leading with his acoustic fingerpicking style backed by flowing strings and minimal percussion Kimbrough takes us into the woods and skies that lie beyond his North Carolina home. With the absence of any lyrics he strengthens that natural connection.

Having spent 15 years in a music collective based in Chapel Hill, NC, the idea of making a solo album came to Kimbrough as he sat with his slumbering baby son on his deck. He wanted to blend his contentment of becoming a dad, the natural world around him and the pleasure of solitude. Trying to apply a genre is pointless as Kimbrough learned to play guitar by listening to Freddie King and the nineteenth century Spanish classical guitarist Fernando Sor.

Intimately Kimbrough draws the listener into his web of flowing guitar with layers of strings. The titles say it all, ‘Sunbathing Water Snake’ is a gently flowing current of sound. There is just enough repetition to counter his classical flourishes. ‘Booker Creek Ripple’ starts with the gentlest blues riff before the banjo takes off in a roots direction.

Kimbrough conveys a sense of contentment living at a slower pace in harmony with the flora and fauna. The flute in ‘Backyard Hawk’ soars with his avian companion. ‘Giant Leopard Moth’ flits around a closer orbit. ‘Squirrel in the Leaves’ alternates intense activity with an abrupt halt before the rustling begins again.

Never far away is a sense of awe at the richness that lies on his doorstep. ‘Glowing Treetops’ and ‘The Shape of Wind is a Tree’ underscore the permanence of nature. Amid this sylvan landscape comes the soothing ‘Simon’s Lullaby’, the reason all this came about. The cello and fiddle add that link to dreams.

Lest all this comes across as a bit ethereal each composition is the work of a serious and talented musician. Put aside preconceptions and genres and enter Kimbrough’s enchanting world.

The restorative power of music and nature
8/10

Author: Lyndon Bolton

Writing about americana, country, blues, folk and all stops in between

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