Fat Possum 2015
12 tracks; 42 minutes
Jimbo Mathus has been around for some years, finding success with the Squirrel Nut Zippers and the South Memphis String Band and most recently working with the Dickinson brothers and Ian Siegal. With the latter he toured Europe in an acoustic duo, playing a wide range of Americana but for blues fans he is probably best known for his work with Buddy Guy on “Sweet Tea”. The musicians are listed as Jimbo, Eric Carlton, Stu Cole, Bronson Tew, Kell Kellum, Eric Ambel, Barrett Martin, Gid Stuckley, Sunny Stuckley though the album does not show who plays what. The songs are all Jimbo’s, with co-writers on three cuts.
The album claims to be a ‘concept album’ which explores “a man in a Southern landscape who is swept insanely apart by internal and external winds” (according to Jimbo himself). Jimbo’s slightly hoarse voice works well on a rocker like the opener “Shoot Out The Lights” with its pounding piano and slashing guitars, a little less so on the quieter tunes like “Mama Please” which deals with all manner of addictions in a classic country piece that might have suited Johnny Cash. The title track “Blue Healer” brings in a supernatural element with some strange images of the blue healer who comes “in a blinding light and lays her hands on me so I can dream again” but Jimbo gives the game away when he introduces the guitar by shouting “rock” as an intro! “Sometimes I Get Worried” is all weeping pedal steel and acoustic guitars as Jimbo carries on his search for peace of mind while “Ready To Run” is country rock with plenty of multi-layered guitars. “Thank You” is almost entirely acoustic guitar, a song written to express the character’s thanks to his girl for her love, with just a few low-key guitar additions.
“Coyote” opens with some shimmering electric guitar and acoustic lead, a slow-paced, moody piece about travelling through trails and forests (and deserts?) with the title character nearby. “Bootheel Witch” is a rocker with female backing vocals which lyrically recalls T Rex with lines like “She’s a bootheel witch, I like the way she twitch, come on” and some manic piano playing towards the end. “Old Earl” is pure country, Jimbo affecting a deeper voice to describe the character who was such a recluse that when he died his body was not discovered for a year! The rock element returns on “Waiting On The Other Shoe To Fall” and whether it’s the lyrics about “woman hiding on the wrong side of town” or the guitar riffs but Springsteen comes to mind on this one, a short tune at just over two minutes. “Save It For The Highway” keeps things rocking with a catchy tune and plenty of guitars though whether the makers of Monopoly will be happy with lyrics like “go to jail, go directly to jail” is another matter! The album closes with the piano-led “Love And Affection” which starts gently but builds into a country rocker and acts lyrically as a closing point for the travelogue as our central character realizes that sanctuary may well lie in a loving relationship.
As readers will note, the word ‘blues’ has not appeared in this review and there really is no blues content here. Perhaps the easiest reference point for this album would be the Stones’ “Exile On Main Street” though Mick and the boys did do some blues on that album; Jim sticks to a mix of rock and country here. Not one for this reviewer but there are sure to be plenty of people who will dig Jimbo’s latest album.