"Grew up in Mississippi like a good boy should," sings Jimbo Mathus on the title track to his new album Jimmy the Kid. "Nobody thought he'd turn out much good." The song's hero, like Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," bears a striking resemblance to the singer. Mathus is a reformed (mostly) juvenile delinquent who on record and stage deftly incorporates the richly diverse Southern sounds he heard growing up around Clarksdale, Miss.
"Basically I combine the myriad styles of deep roots music in a type of alchemy. Blues, country, gospel and soul all go into the equation equally…"—Jimbo Mathus
He masterminded the hyper-ragtime, jump blues act Squirrel Nut Zippers, something that started as a fun little project but eventually sold a million-plus CDs in the 1990s. Since then, Mathus has released recordings of his own in a style he rightfully describes as Mississippi Music. He has stayed busy with numerous side-projects, as well, working with Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Elvis Costello and Buddy Guy. Mathus played guitar on Guy's critically acclaimed 2001 album Sweet Tea — which hit No. 1 on Billboard's Top Blues Albums chart. And can be heard performing rhythm and slide guitar on the blues master's Grammy-winning 2003 record Blues Singer. Mathus also served as guitarist/bandleader for Guy on tour.
Mathus' Delta Recording Service, a studio based in Clarksdale, is where artists who want that down-home sound akin to vintage Sun Records go. Costello recorded his Grammy nominated "Monkey to Man" single at Delta Recording Service in 2005. And Mathus has produced two albums there that were nominated for Blues Music Awards in 2006, Duwayne Burnside's Under Pressure and Big George Brock's Club Caravan.
As a performer, Mathus contributed vocals on the North Mississippi Allstars' 2006 Grammy-nominated Electric Blues Watermelon. He reteamed with buddy Luther Dickinson for The Sons of Mudboy. The album came out in late 2009 and features Mathus on guitar, mandolin, banjo and vocals. It honors the late Jim Dickinson and received a glowing review in Rolling Stone magazine. "Jim would have loved the rough edges [and] determined joy," wrote Senior Editor David Fricke.
"I break down walls and stereotypes with my music, I confuse people. I use Mississippi Music, which is renegade music at heart, as my inspiration and motivation…"—Jimbo Mathus
Mathus started doing Mississippi Music professionally in between Squirrel Nut Zipper projects. He and some other Zippers went by "James Mathus and the Knockdown Society," recording three albums together from 1997 to 2002. _Around this time, Mathus' guitar skills started popping up on other high profile releases such as the North Mississippi Allstar's smash debut Shake Hands with Shorty and Jim Dickinson's lauded Free Beer Tomorrow. This led to producer Dennis Herring hiring Mathus to play on Sweet Tea. "It was the honor of a lifetime," Jimbo says of playing with Guy. "I have nothing but respect for the man." _
Mathus opened Delta Recording Service in downtown Clarksdale in 2004. The studio features vintage RCA silver capsule microphones and Pre-Amps like the ones used in the 1940s and 1950s by everybody from Billie Holiday to Elvis Presley. The guitar amps, drums, piano and everything else is old school, too. So is the building. _"It don't look like it work, but it do; just ask Elvis Costello," Mathus says.
He excels as a songwriter, producer, recording artist and at spreading the gospel of Mississippi Music in concert. "I like to let the shows be the test and keep the boogie going 30 minutes if needs be," Mathus says. "If everybody is grooving on something why bother and stop it?
"I'm not trying to make anything fancy happen, I'm just trying to get through to people, get them on the dance floor or the table or wherever it is they need to be…"—Jimbo Mathus _
Mathus can regularly be found performing at the world-famous Ground Zero Blues Club, which is co-owned by fellow Clarksdale resident Morgan Freeman, who co-produced Mathus' 2004 live album Jimbo & Friends at Ground Zero Blues Club. Mathus is a continuation of the storied music history of Clarksdale and of Mississippi, when all is said and done. His current band, The Tri-State Coalition, features solid talent cut from the same Delta cloth: Tri-State bassist Justin Showah and keyboardist Eric Carlton are also from Mississippi. Guitarist Matt Pierce hails from Arkansas. Missouri native and drummer Austin Marshall rounds out the group, whose sound, Mathus describes as "inner-planetary honky-tonk. Basically I'm using a lot more of white country, folk, and southern rock influences. It's a great Southern band that is versatile to the extreme." Armed with a brand new batch of songs, Mathus and Co. are ready to bring Tri-State Coalition to the people.
GOD BLESS MISSISSIPPI AND PASS THE ANTISEPTIC !
Matt Pierce - guitar
Justin Showah - bass
Austin Marshall - drums
Eric Carlton - piano / organ