Jimbo Mathus to release ‘Blue Light’ vinyl EP this July

The late Memphis producer Jim Dickinson once called Jimbo Mathus “the singing voice of Huck Finn.” Outside the South, Mathus is likely best known as the ringleader of the defunct hyper-ragtime outfit Squirrel Nut Zippers, or as the catalyst for Buddy Guy’s breakthrough Sweet Tea in 2001 and Guy’s Grammy-winning Blues Singeralbum.

This July, Mathus will soon release a six-song vinyl EP on the Big Legal Mess label titled Blue Light, which he recorded with producer Bruce Watson at Watson’s Water Valley, Miss., studio, Dialed Back Sound.

Blue Light perfectly captures Mathus’ style of Southern musical alchemy. From the proto garage rock of “Haunted John” (“up and down Saint Charles/rides the streetcar all night long”), to the sideways-with-the-law Southern rock of “Blue Light” to the dead-end gospel-fueled country weeper of “Burn the Honky Tonk,” Mathus shows the diversity of his vision. The conviction of his singing and storytelling will make you believe every word is true. “I’m singing from absolute experience on this recording. Raw stories of real events,” he says.

Engineer Lynn Bridges and Dial Back Sound enhanced the artist’s raw, rough and tumble approach, adding warm textures and mournful pedal steel to make a sound akin to a late ’60s roadhouse jukebox.

In his native Mississippi, and throughout the South, Mathus is recognized as the prolific songwriter of born-in-the-bone Southern music, the torchbearer for Deep South mythology and culture. Think Delta highways, bowling-pin Budweisers and “interplanetary honky-tonk” for the masses.

His credits include the North Mississippi Allstars’ Electric Blue Watermelon, and he was Grammy-nominated as a member of Luther Dickinson & the Sons of Mudboy for the Jim Dickinson memorial album Onward and Upward. Mathus also recently joined forces with Luther and Alvin Youngblood Hart, forming the retro-roots “supergroup” the South Memphis String Band.

Beyond his solo work, Mathus hit paydirt with fans and critics alike in 2011 with the release of Confederate Buddha, on which he’s backed by what he says is “the best band in the land,” the Tri-State Coalition.  Featuring solid talent cut from the same Delta cloth, the band’s sound is “ . . . a true Southern amalgam of blues, white country, soul and rock ’n’ roll,” according to bandleader Mathus.  The group formed when Mathus was living in Memphis, Tennessee, and for nearly a decade, he’s been working with these same players — fellow Mississippians Justin Showah (bass, vocals), Eric Carlton (keyboards) and Arkansan Matt Pierce (guitar).  They brought in drummer Ryan Rogers last year, and together the boys laid down the sound that is White Buffalo, the forthcoming 2012 release from Jimbo Mathus & the Tri-State Coalition, produced by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (Steve Earle, The Bottle Rockets, Del Lords).

Of the band’s recording, Mathus says, “White Buffalo is a collaboration with our producer, ‘Roscoe’ Ambel, who brought a fierceness, a keen edge to our sound.  I’ve never been prouder of any recording.” Ambel offers, “There is an effortless, natural feeling that comes from Jimbo & Tri-State’s music that in today’s times cannot be mistaken for anything less than ‘great.’”

And this from Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes), writing in the liner notes for Confederate Buddha: “The Confederate Buddha, the Katfish King, people have a lot of names on a riverboat. Just a little time to dream, dark and murky, only to emerge fire and brimstone. Lightning and kudzu wisdom and wine oh . . . He’s feeling fine, besides either you look cool with a gold tooth or you do not. So listen to the Mississippi mystic and believe . . .”



Fri., May 4, 6:15 p.m.  MEMPHIS, TN   FedEx Blues Tent
Sat., May 5, 9:30 p.m.  COLUMBUS, MS (downtown)
Sun., May  6, 4:30 p.m.  WATER VALLEY, MS   (downtown)
Thurs.,  May 17, 7 p.m. OXFORD, MS   The Powerhouse
Fri-Sat., May 18-19, TBD MARKSVILLE, LA  Chief Joseph Alcide Pierite Pow Wow Grounds
Sat., May 26, 7:30 p.m.   MEMPHIS, TN   Levitt Shell at Overton Park
Fri., June 8, 10 p.m. LITTLE ROCK, AR   Whitewater Tavern
Sat., June 9, TBD  HELENA, AR   Levee Stage
Fri., June 15, TBD  ATLANTA, GA   Star Bar
Fri., June 22, TBD  NASHVILLE, TN   Grimey’s Basement
Sat., June 23, TBD  CHARLESTON, SC    The Pour House
Sun., June 24, TBD  ATHENS, GA    The Melting Pot
Thurs., June 28, 9 p.m. OXFORD, MS   Rooster’s Blues House
Sat., June 30, TBD  WATERFORD, MS    Hill Country Picnic Stage
Fri., July 6, TBD  MOBILE, AL    The Shed-Mobile
Sat., July 7, TBD  OCEAN SPRINGS, MS   The Shed-Ocean Springs
Sat., July 21, 7:30 p.m. MEMPHIS, TN   National Ornamental
Sat., July 28, TBD  PHILADELPHIA, MS  Neshoba County Fair
Sat., Aug. 11, TBD  CLARKSDALE, MS   Delta Blues Museum Main Stage
Sat., Aug. 11, 9 p.m.  HOPSON, MS   Hopson Plantation Commissary

Thurs., Aug. 23, 8 p.m. BRADFORDVILLE, FL   Bradfordville Blues Club