Okay, so it would be easy to give the Nashville session drummer Kenny Malone the credit for playing on drums on many of bluesman Junior Kimbrough's albums. After all, Malone is a wildly versatile drummer, the so-called "groovemeister of Nashville," and it is no stretch of the imagination that he would be hired to play with a blues band. Except, there are some problems with this, serious ones, and not just that the Nashville cat has been on enough records already. Closer examination of the situation and it looks more and more like the Kimbrough experience doesn't make sense as a Kenny Malone gig, not the Nashville guy, anyway. For one thing, the Kenny Malone on the Kimbrough records was supposedly making his professional debut when the elderly bluesman was making his comeback recordings in the late '80s -- by which time the Nashville Malone had already cut at least 200 albums.

Then there's the matter of Malone being the common-law son of Kimbrough, a black bluesman from the Mississippi delta. The Nashville Malone seems like a white fellow. Now, he could have been passing for white his entire career, but if that is the case, the entire book on racial imbalance in country & western is going to have to be rewritten. Final evidence -- and solid physical evidence is always more convincing than mere theories -- requires a comparison of drum sets. The Nashville Malone is a meticulous craftsman who built his own beautiful drum set from scratch. Record producer Robert Palmer describes the drum kit used on the Kimbrough album All Night Long, on the other hand: "The juke-joint drums...drummer Kenny Malone used for the All Night Long session wasn't exactly a professional kit. It was made of about 90 percent duct tape. That's why the drum sound on the record is so different from other blues records."

On Highway Four, west of Holly Springs, MS, is the late Junior Kimbrough's juke joint, a shack with a rusty tin roof. Malone, Junior's son, continues to sweep the place out, present live music nightly, and play drums with the house band, the Soul Blues Boys. Other members of the Kimbrough family play as well. His son, David Kimbrough, released an album on Fat Possum under the name of David Malone, and went on to team up with brother Kenny. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi