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Will Kimbrough: A 'Cool' Anti-Gossip Anthem

In "It Ain't Cool," it's not hard to figure out what message Alabama-born blues-country singer Will Kimbrough is trying to impart: "It ain't cool to talk about people when they're not around." To make sure listeners mind his message, he dispenses it in a sultry and understated voice with a bit of bite -- an homage to laidback blues-rocker J.J. Cale -- and an occasional hit of earnestness in lines like, "Seems like your mama didn't raise you right." The phrase "It ain't cool" popped into the heads of Kimbrough and alt-country standard-bearer Todd Snider while they were touring together. They began singing it over and over, just as Kimbrough does in the song, featured on his new album, Wings.

Once in a while, Kimbrough stretches the word "cool" out into a piece of sweet musical taffy. The musical backdrop is what he calls a "trance-y wash of sounds," led by his slide guitar, which is channeled through an echo device to sound kind of like an organ. And, for the sake of balance, Marna Taylor provides backup cooing to emphasize that women, as well as men, must abide by the no-gossip rule Kimbrough lays out.

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Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.
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