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Payin' Dues: Jimbo Mathus And The Tri-State Coalition

Mississippian multi-instrumentalist releases his ninth studio album.

Jimbo Mathus honed his craft in swing revivalists the Squirrel Nut Zippers, after performing in the family band where he became adept at mandolin, guitar and piano on country blues and bluegrass. Solo since 1997, he’s mined the Southland for inspiration, creating impassioned bluesy rock’n’soul.

How did your new album Dark Night Of The Soul come together?

I went in [to Dial Back Sound studio] with engineer Bronson Tew. We put down over 40 song ideas, then Bruce Watson, who owns Fat Possum Records as well as the studio, took the role of producer and came in after work and perused the day’s demos. He picked his favourites – the 12 you hear on Dark Night.

 

How did the sessions unfold?

Bruce has a fine collection of vintage tube gear, reverbs, tape machines, amps and instruments, so we set up and had a showdown. We cut the record in two days. 

 

Casey Caught The Cannonball is a standout track. What inspired it?

Here in Mississippi, the powers that be have finally embraced our blues music heritage. They erect markers where greats like Ike Turner, Sam Cooke, Muddy Waters, Jimmie Rogers, Bo Diddley, Gus Cannon et al resided or were born and raised. One monument was placed in Water Valley, by the home of Casey Jones. The thinking was that he and his fateful train crash were so ingrained in the folk/blues idiom that he deserved his own marker. I was asked to play the unveiling and so I decided to write my own Casey Jones-inspired composition.

 

You joined your family’s band at the age of six?  

I was instantly fascinated by the words, stories, melodies, the unspoken messages and codes imbedded in this great art form. I set out along life’s way with nothing but these to guide me. I’ve never once looked back with regret.

 

Who are your chief influences?

I’m blessed to have been mentored by some of the greats, such as Al Casey (swing and jazz), Buddy Guy (blues) and Jim Dickinson (world boogie and Southern hoodoo). I feel blessed and supported by the musical and cultural heritage of my beloved Southland.  

Dark Night Of The Soul is out now on Fat Possum Records.

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