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John Kimsey | Twisted Roots

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Bob Dylan Ry Cooder Steely Dan

Album Links
Somewhere A Guitar live video Mole in the Ground live video Alibi Club live video How Can I Keep From Singing live video

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United States - Illinois

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Rock: Roots Rock Blues: Jazzy Blues Moods: Mood: Intellectual
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Twisted Roots

by John Kimsey

John Kimsey's original songs twist the roots, using homegrown Southern music styles like blues, jump, rockabilly and bluegrass to map the underside of the American dream.
Genre: Rock: Roots Rock
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. What's Wrong With This Picture?
4:13 album only
2. Monkey Trial
4:28 album only
3. Good Morning Mr. Lomax
3:36 album only
4. Spin This
4:19 album only
5. Alibi Club
3:31 album only
6. Lydia
3:57 album only
7. Mole in the Ground
3:33 album only
8. Talking Talk Radio
5:37 album only
9. Unworthy Craftsman
5:14 album only
10. Dog Eat Dog Eat Dog
4:58 album only
11. Somewhere A Guitar
3:41 album only
12. The Market Has Spoken
2:39 album only
13. Do You Walk Like You Talk
3:12 album only
14. How Can I Keep From Singing?
2:16 album only


Album Notes
What's wrong with this picture?

That's the musical question that kicks off Twisted Roots, the tuneful, timely and thought-provoking new CD by roots-rock singer / songwriter / guitarist John Kimsey.

The songs on Twisted Roots are both strikingly original and steeped in tradition -- specifically, Southern roots music traditions like blues, jump, rockabilly and country. With supple touch and incisive wit, Kimsey bends such roots music styles into boundary-blurring explorations of the underside of the American dream. From the razor-sharp satire of "Talking Talk Radio" and "Alibi Club," to the (upside) down-from-the-mountain strangeness of "Mole in the Ground" and "Monkey Trial," to the string-pulling protest of "Somewhere A Guitar" and "Good Morning Mr. Lomax," to the soulful vision of "Lydia," "Dog Eat Dog Eat Dog" and "How Can I Keep From Singing," the album bristles with wry humor, yearning emotion and startling insight.

Initial inspiration for the project came from a photo taken at the 1989 inaugural party for then-President George H. W. Bush. The snapshot shows Bush and his take-no-prisoners campaign manager, Lee Atwater, posing down with electric guitars in front of an all-star R&B band -- a band which the South Carolina-born Atwater, a former R&B guitarist, assembled for the occasion. Some found this image -- of powerful white politicians mugging in front of brilliant black musicians -- troubling, particularly given the boost that the 1988 Bush campaign received from a race-baiting series of TV ads centering on black convict Willie Horton.

When he came aross the photo a few years later, Kimsey -- a Tennessee native who has recorded widely, performed alongside legends like New Orleans' Dr. John, and been nominated Best Guitarist in the Chicago Musician awards -- was struck: "When I saw that photo, my response meter pegged out at the fear-and-loathing end of the emotional spectrum. It was like a map of the American political landscape, with all these creepy fault lines exposed. So I started to write songs which used the language of roots music to talk about some of the underlying implications -- both ridiculous and disturbing -- of that scene. And the project blossomed from there."

The resulting song cycle has been described by music critic David Simpson as follows: "Do you like Dylan, Ry Cooder, Mose Allison? Fiddle music, Delta blues, Dixie rockabilly, Steely Dan? -- all mixed together with a shot or two of Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, Molly Ivins and Mark Twain? Then you will love Twisted Roots, a wonderful blend of lyricism and political satire and a bona fide work of American art."

Or, in the words of veteran Chicago producer/engineer Blaise Barton, Twisted Roots is an album of "heartbreaking music."



to write a review

Rita Gorman Leganski

A memorable wine from the vineyard of a poet.
Twisted Roots is like a memorable wine harvested from the vineyard of a poet; full-bodied, flavorful, and oh so easy going down. Bottled by the conscience and aged in the cellar of the soul, it's insightful wit thrills the intellectual palate inspiring social awareness and a giggle at the expense of The Man. Each sip brings something new: a taste of rock, a mellow swallow of jazzy blues, a tickle of folksey rock-a-billy, or the necessary bitterness of heartache. In the best of all worlds, Twisted Roots would be the house favorite. So get yourself some, pour it out, raise your glass and say, "To hope."

Leslie Kretchmar

Dr. John Kimsey can sweep you away with his original compositions!
You can't keep still listening to this great guitar and backup! There's a natural rhythm that carries you along with the wonderful voice and music to another place.

Tom Healy

Cracklin' guitar and sureshot songwriting combined with political acumen.
The brilliance of Twisted Roots illuminates the dark underbelly of the American Dream using a range of popular American musics: blues, jump swing, rockabilly, folk. The disk includes sizzling observations about our rapacious economic system like Dog Eat Dog Eat Dog and The Market Has Spoken; a hilarious send-up of the hypocritical Rush Limbaugh, Talking Talk Radio and critiques of Big Media/Right Wing manipulation: Spin This and What's Wrong With the Picture? Political criticism lavished with elegance, wit, style and substance and surrounded by skilled musicianship, haunting melodies and deft production. Check out the audio samples and see if you don't agree this disk ROCKS! Then buy TWISTED ROOTS.

Mike Perkovich

This is terrific music----with great social-political insight.
John Kimsey's work is is stunning. He manages to mine the political landscape with art that leaves intellectual shrapnel behind--while rocking with the best of them. The resulting scars are welcome--these songs stay with you, and you hope that they reach all their intended targets--who would not be able to forget the wounds either, who would find them troubling and difficult to heal.
Songs like "Monkey Trial" bring to mind the Faulknerian truism that, "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past," while
"Dog Eat Dog Eat Dog" is very much of the moment. "Lydia" has a real empathy and tenderness for its subject, the public housing mother who doesn't know how to get out--and reminds you that the trouble with the "underclass" is the overclass. In Kimsey's hands the traditional "Mole in the Ground" is a haunting, lovely, almost eerie wail, one I often play more than once bedore letting the disc continue.
So far I've purchased five copies of "Twisted Roots," one for myself and four more for friends and family. I think I'll be getting more.

Lynn DeAlva

This ingenious and insightful set of songs took me by surprise...
I stumbled onto Twisted Roots, listened, and knew I had just listened to something the likes of which I had not heard before... which meant I had to listen again right away - the lyrics, ideas, music, rythyms, musicianship wrapped around each other just as the imagery of the album title and cover capture. Kimsey and friends have given us a timely.. in our world of media deceit.. and timeless album of music that I was dared not to enjoy and react to.

Dennis DeBondt

Great music and a lot of fun.
What a great mix of music and sounds. "Twisted Roots" really shows how these
forms of music twist and turn and entwine. A rich tapestry of musical styles
and social commentary that doesn't make you want to jump from track to
track, but sit back and soak it in from start to finish.Go get it and wear
the grooves out!