Onions, Old Movies & You, the new album from Billy Kemp, is not a blues record so much as a blues-infused record that took the Baltimore-raised-Tennessee-based roots musician back on a journey to where it all began: to the basements, garages and filling stations where he first heard the blues and honed his craft as a songwriter, singer and guitarist.
One of the early cuts, “Take ‘Em Away,” was written immediately after Billy finished reading Willie Dixon’s biography I Am The Blues and throughout the sessions at Scratching Post studios in Liberty, Tennessee, the screen saver on the studio computer rotated images of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, as well as Billy’s wife, Sue Griffiths, on a tricycle.
The album was recorded between September, 2021 and September 2022 with additional tracks from violinist extraordinaire, Craig Eastman recorded at Pepper Peg Studios in Sherman Oaks, California.
Additional collaborators and co-writers include Sue Griffiths, Jeni Hankins, Geoffrey Himes and Alfred Hickling. Multi-instrumentalist Billy played acoustic and electric guitar, bass, harmonica and melodica as well as engineering and mixing the tracks. Additional musicians on the record include Joe Allen on drums, Craig Eastman on fiddle, low fiddle, chincello and slide guitar, Philip Sterk on pedal steel, Shad Cobb on fiddle and Sue Griffiths on banjo and back-up vocals.
As for that intriguing title…just ask yourself, what are the three things most likely to make Billy cry?
Whether you’re in need of a hearty weep or a good laugh, pick up a copy of Billy Kemp’s, Onions, Old Movies & You, find a good seat, some sound speakers or headphones, a cuppa tea and let the tissues fly…