Jimmy Lumpkin lives in a cabin beneath pine, oak and magnolia trees on Fish River in southern Alabama. A painted sign by the front door reads: “The Woods Are Lovely, Dark and Deep.” The green-and-white Wilderness camper that he bought with this wife, Thalia, was once parked close by. They planned to travel from town to town and live a simple life, but music and other Lumpkins changed their direction.
Jimmy became the first artist signed to Skate Mountain Records, a label started in 2016 by movie producers Scott and Kate Lumpkin (no relation to Jimmy). Jimmy and Thalia sold the camper and Home became the name of his new album instead of a nomadic life on wheels.
“I have always been a songwriter and musician, but now I am lucky to have people involved who care about this music and push me and the songs to the next level,” he says. “They have given me more confidence.”
Jimmy and Scott met several years ago when Jimmy passed a CD to Scott’s father, hoping to get his music into a film.
“With the same last name, a voice like his, and his ability to write a song, we knew Jimmy had to be the first one with Skate Mountain Records,” Scott says. “We reached out to a few local songwriters and most gave us one or two songs to start with. Jimmy came to us with 40 songs and every one of them was fantastic. He is special.”
With his full beard and beaver-pelt Fedora, Jimmy looks like a moonshiner or traveling preacher from another time. His voice is haunting, jagged, scratchy and smooth, sounding like it comes from all sides of a vintage amp. That voice is filled with fields, rivers and pine trees, but there is also tenderness, longing, and soul as it soars over horns, strings, and a church choir.
Jimmy has played in bands and recorded albums before, but this one is different. Home was recorded in Los Angeles with musicians and a producer he didn’t know. He boarded the plane in Mobile with three guitars, unsure of what to expect on the other side.
“When we started, I didn’t know anyone besides Scott and Kate, so I had to keep myself centered,” he says. “We talked about the vibe the whole time because it had to be on. It was textures and quiet here or loud there. We had to find the song and not compete with it.”
They recorded in L.A. with Kate’s friend, producer Noah Shain who found new ways to enhance Jimmy’s sound including a 1939 Hammond organ with Leslie speakers.
“It was important to work with seasoned, charismatic players in a comfortable environment and honor Jimmy’s music,” Kate says. “Noah’s vision brought ours to life and surpassed it. Together, we took Jimmy’s diamond-in-the-rough sound and made it brilliant. It was the right place, people, and moment.”
One of the album’s first singles, “My Name is Love,” is in the upcoming movie The Foreigner. The song could be an anthem of healing during a time of division and protests.
I’m a breeze blowing through the land
How many people out there understand
There is a change coming my good friend
And it’s more than just a popular trend
We need the flowers, we need the bees
We need more people out there planting trees
It’s a movement, it’s a show, get ready for the overthrow
Carry me like a steam train, fly me high like an aeroplane
I’m stronger than a hurricane, better believe you are going to know my name.
My name is love…
I am the hope that we really need.
How many folks out there are starting to see?
Don’t make a fist, instead join hands
This is how the overthrow begins.
We need more forgiveness, we need more trust,
Less of you and more of us.
(“My Name Is Love”)
“I am a philosopher and want everyone to get along,” he says. “That yearning comes out in my songs. I have lost my desire to impress people and would rather relate to others and have us understand each other. That is more powerful.”
The message of joining hands instead of making fists is timely, but there is a timelessness to Home that brings the past into the present.
“I have always liked the idea of looking at peoples’ lives from the past,” Jimmy says. “People once lived without electricity in our cabin and I think about what they went through. Music lends itself to memories and sounds of the past. I grew up in the country and played cars and trucks in the dirt and wrote songs about that. I listened to my dad sing Elvis Presley, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Rolling Stones, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash.
“I was sheltered for a while and that music is what I knew.”
Like all songwriters, Lumpkin wants his music to make a difference and be remembered. He has written stories and songs his whole life, and says it is magic when the music and lyrics meet. Home is also a chance to fulfill some of his dad’s dreams.
“No one wants to be forgotten. I want to write a song that is listened to and loved at any time by any age,” he says. “Bringing old music back to life gives it a chance to evolve even more. My dad always talked about the things he wanted to do with music but he never did them. I am living some of his dreams.”
Jimmy describes the album as black and white, light and dark, and the emotions that come from them. “The Best One” digs into anger and hurt, “Every Time I Leave” is longing and love. “Troubled Soul” is trouble and hope.
Here are the stories behind some of the songs on Home.
“The Best One”
I feel like you’re half-ass’n, giving me just enough to say you are my friend
Pick yourself up by your bootstraps, this old fence ain’t going to mend itself.
You were the best one, you were the best one, I ever had.
The “half ass” is his neighbor’s miniature donkey named Annie Mae who got out and bothered Jimmy while he was writing this song. It also means putting half of your heart into a relationship.
“This is about a friendship with my best friend because I felt like I was giving everything I had and he wasn’t. Apologies were made on both sides. When you don’t have a lot, what you have is everything to you. Now that I have a little more, I catch myself taking things for granted and sometimes I am in a place where I am ‘half-assing.’ Point fingers and there are four pointing back at you.”
“Count to Three”
When you know your way
When you count to three
Like it’s do or die
like it’s you or me
When you know your way
When you hold your peace
Then you read my rights and
I am no longer free
The “do or die” happened while Thalia was in surgery to fix an irregular heartbeat and there was a “code blue” which meant someone in surgery died.
“Our hearts dropped when we heard ‘code blue,’” he says. “It wasn’t Thalia, but I came home angry because someone else died. I feed off the world and what people are going through.”
I saw you walking down the road so sadly.
The sun was in your eyes, your tears were burning bright and I could not deny
Where are you going troubled soul in the gray evening late
Troubled soul, where are you going in the gray evening late
You should stay
Some of those lines are from “I Think It Was an Owl,” a poem he wrote when he was a teenager. “I write songs of traveling and being grounded,” he says. “You see a person going down a troubled road and can offer them sanctuary or help but you don’t know what is out there.”
“The second verse is: ‘I have seen that look once or twice as I was crossing the stream. Where does the water flow, nobody really knows but as I look I see me,’” he quotes. “You look down at the water and see your reflection. You have seen your own trouble and can empathize. I have been both people. Right now I am out of the thick of it.”
“Every Time I Leave”
Christ only knows how much I love her
Christ only knows how much I miss her when I am gone
I am going to be right back sweet baby
Dry your eyes, girl, you have to be strong
Every time I leave it feels like forever
As I look back at my home in the rearview mirror
Home is where my baby lives
“This song started when Scott said, ‘It feels like forever when home is in the tail lights,’” Jimmy says. “Jesus went away and said he was coming again. He has been gone a long time. The idea is that each time I leave home it feels like forever until I return. I have a degree in pastoral ministry and used to write praise and worship songs and sometimes religion still comes out.
The horns and the choir backing him through the chorus of “Home is where my baby lives” are new to his music and one of his favorite parts of the album. He dreams of having horns and a male tenor and female alto on stage with his band.
From a donkey named Annie Mae to his own troubled soul and a wife he never wants to leave, Jimmy writes from his life and who he is.
“I have always been a writer and believed in myself and that is important. I don’t want to hold anything back because this is what I am supposed to do,” he says.
“Songwriting is giving of yourself and figuring out things you are going through. I am still in the struggle, but it is important to stay true to yourself and keep your own soul.”