Jimbo Mathus | Confederate Buddha

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Confederate Buddha

by Jimbo Mathus

Ex Squirrel Nut Zipper front man Jimbo Mathus with a rocking new record that has a hint of country. He has been called "the singing voice of Huck Finn." by the late legendary producer Jim Dickinson.
Genre: Rock: Southern Rock
Release Date: 

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Tracks

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1. Jimmy The Kid
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3:09 album only
2. Cling To The Roots
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3:16 album only
3. Wheel Upon Wheel
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3:18 album only
4. Town With No Shame
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4:14 album only
5. Leash My Pony
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3:10 album only
6. Walks Beside
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4:07 album only
7. Glad It's Dark
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3:11 album only
8. Aces & Eights
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4:53 album only
9. Too Much Water
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4:09 album only
10. Kine Joe
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3:30 album only
11. Shady Dealing
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2:41 album only
12. Days of High Cotton
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5:24 album only
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
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. Lightening 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... Chris Robinson/The Black Crowes

The late, great producer, raconteur, pianist, session man, artist and sage Jim Dickinson once called Jimbo Mathus “the singing voice of Huck Finn.” Outside the South, Jimbo is likely best known as the ringleader of the 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 Singer album.

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 “innerplanetary honky-tonk” for the masses.

His credits include vocals on the North Mississippi Allstars’ Electric Blue Watermelon and was, himself, Grammy-nominated for his participation on the Jim Dickinson memorial album, Onward and Upward as a member of Luther Dickinson & The Sons of Mudboy. He also joined forces with Luther and Alvin Youngblood Hart, forming the retro-roots “supergroup” South Memphis String Band whose Memphis International debut was Home Sweet Home.

He recorded Confederate Buddha, his forthcoming solo album to be released by Memphis International on May 24 with his current band, The Tri-State Coalition, featuring solid talent cut from the same Delta cloth. He describes the sound as “...a true Southern amalgam of blues, white country, soul and rock-n-roll. “

The idea behind the album’s title germinated from Jimbo’s interest in regional folklore and art forms. “I got the (Alan) Lomax book [The Land Where The Blues Began] and found myself going where he went and those same places, the same churches are still there and I was finding these weird country people who are backwoods bodhisattvas – oracles, rural sages who are so wise and of the past projecting an image of both peace and rebellion.
“Confederate Buddha is the first album I’ve written and recorded with a band in mind,” he notes, having previously based his recordings around songs rather than players and says the result has a “southern rock feel to it.” For the past two years, he’s been with these same cats – fellow Mississippians Justin Showah (bass, vocals) who also co-produced and co-engineered and Eric Carlton (keyboards), Arkansan Matt Pierce (guitar) and drummer Austin Marshall from Missouri a/k/a the “Tri” in “Tri-state.” The result is a sound that’s coherent and rock solid. These core players were augmented by guests Forest Parker, Billy Earhart, Luther Dickinson, Cody Dickinson, Paul Taylor, Paul Morelli, Steve Selvidge, Lightnin' Malcolm and Brian Ledford along with Jennifer Pierce Mathus, Gin Gin Carlton and Rosamond Posey, a/k/a The White Angels.

The tunestack for Confederate Buddha recasts Jimbo as a latter day Siddhartha, journeying forth into a (Southern) world of wonders and revelations. He offers some insights into that journey:

“’Jimmy The Kid’ is kind of my theme song and it’s a bit autobiographical but it's really about my dad. I wrote it when he got sick a while ago.” We must add that the overall sound is “tuff" and, yes, that’s how it should be spelled in this context.
“Cling To The Roots’ is my favorite song on the album; we were playing a string of rib joints around the Gulf last July when the BP spill was happening; there was an apocalyptic vibe with all these people in orange hazmat suits running around and I was thinking of Katrina and the Nashville flood. It kind of hit me while I was back in the van: it was a biblical, Old Testament situation.”
“’Wheel Upon Wheel’ is just some philosophical stuff about the interconnectedness of everything with some end of times lyrics in it. I was in Italy and hadn't had a lot of sleep and thought about Hindu teachings and waiting for the avatar; it’s not from that movie.”
“’Town With No Shame’ is just a very country, very honky tonk song. I wrote it in the hope it would sound good in a juke box in Memphis.”
“’Leash My Pony’ is some country blues with a Ry Cooder influence via Jim Dickinson, what my dad would call ‘west coast ‘jankey’ blues.’ Took a little from Charlie Patton, too.”
“‘Walks Beside’ is just a love song, pure and simple.”
“’Glad It's Dark’ is my idea of a creepy pop song. I once lived with a blind woman in Tallulah Bankhead's mansion in Como, Mississippi. Southern gothic, of course, is my bent.”
“’Aces & Eights’ was written after a visit to Deadwood, South Dakota. I had this one around for a while – before the Deadwood TV series. I was fascinated with the story of Wild Bill Hickcock's killing by the coward Jack McCall. Wild Bill was holding three aces and two eights when he was shot and that become known as the dead man's hand. He was a bad card player and blew through lots of money but the irony is that he was holding a good hand at the end.”
“’Too Much Water’ is just an end of the line, bitter love song kind of thing. You know, it’s over when you’re getting blamed for everything including natural disasters.”
“’Kine Joe’ is a voodoo dance number. I’m a longtime student of New Orleans oils, unguent and candles and have been frequenting a spiritual shop down there and going to Mardi Gras since I was a teen-ager.”
“’Shady Dealing’ is strictly a rock ‘n’ roll number.”
“’Days of High Cotton:’ In Requiem for a Nun, William Faulkner wrote, ‘The past is never dead. It's not even past.’ So we have some of his imagery in there, contrasting the state of the Delta today where there’s endemic poverty and ruin to its salad days. I’m just more at home in Mississippi than any other place; my forebears on my mothers side came here from Italy to pick cotton around Clarksdale, home of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Ike Turner and Sam Cooke and my father’s side is from near Shiloh, in the north east. “


Reviews


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Greg Sorvig

This Time Jimmy the Kid Brought His Posse! Best Jimbo Album Yet
James. Jas. Hambone. Jimmy the Kid. Kap'n Katfish. Jimbo.

Over the years Jimbo Mathus' nickname has changed as frequently as the musical genres of his albums and the number of musicians that have backed him up.

Just check out this discography:

- "Play Songs for Rosetta" (Jas. Mathus and His Knockdown Society), Oct. 21, 1997 - The folk roots benefit album for Rosetta Patton that features a vast ensemble of musicians.
- "National Antiseptic" (James Mathus & His Knockdown Society), Oct. 16, 2001 - The swamp boogie album.
- "Stop and Let the Devil Ride" (James Mathus Knockdown Society), June 17, 2003 - The blues album.
- "Knockdown South" (Jimbo Mathus Knockdown South), January 25, 2005 - The soul album with his Knockdown South band.
- "Old Scool Hot Wings" (Jas. Mathus), May 30, 2006 - Another folk roots album recorded with a vast ensemble of musicians.
- "Jimmy the Kid" (Jimbo Mathus), August 18, 2009 - The country rock album.
- "Confederate Buddha" (Jimbo Mathus), May 24, 2011 - The album that can't be pegged into one genre. First album with Jimbo's new full-time band, the Tri-State Coalition.

"Confederate Buddha" marks the first album recorded with the Tri-State Coalition, a collection of like-minded, dedicated musicians who have taken a solemn vow to play along with Jimbo for the foreseeable future.

How like-minded? Justin Showah, bassist and backup vocals, is owner at Hill Country Records, the label that released Jimbo's previous effort "Jimmy the Kid." The label is a beacon for the region's culture and music, putting on the annual Hill Country Festival and promoting other artists like Eric Deaton (who was a part of Knockdown South with Jimbo in the mid-00's). Also part of the Hill Country family is the Coalition's keyboardist, Eric Carlton, who was featured on Kent Kimbrough's "Super Funky" album alongside Jimbo and Showah. Co-guitarist and vocalist Matt Pierce, a member of the Arkansas Bros., also shares the same passion for the region's music. The most recent addition to the Tri-State Coalition is Alex Holeman, who rounds out the band on drums. Like his band mate Pierce, Holeman hails from Jonesboro, Arkansas.

In a recent interview Jimbo explained that on tour, in the days before the Tri-State Coalition, he would mosey into a town and locate a drummer for that evening's performance. His recording style was similar, often recruiting local friends/musicians to play on a session or two that he would later piece into an album. Jimbo realized this wasn't sustainable. He needed to commit to a consistent, reliable act.

Jimbo is known for crossing genres between albums, but not within. Every previous album release, as you can see from the discography, has a distinct feel to it. There's the folk roots albums ("Rosetta" and "Hot Wings"), the blues album ("Stop and Let the Devil Ride"), the country rock album ("Jimmy the Kid") and so on. Jimbo's days of playing it safe within a genre, playing off the cuff with whoever may be around, have officially ended with this album. With the Tri-State Coalition by his side, Jimbo extends his reach in "Confederate Buddha" like he has never done before. Just look at the album title. It may shock and confuse at first, but after a brief explanation it makes perfect sense. Jimbo explained that the title was coined by Justin Showah, that it's an amalgam of two opposites; a rebellious anarchist combined with perpetual inner peace. Jimbo, in a sense, is the living "Confederate Buddha." He's contented with his lifestyle, a self-professed person of peace, but is also a rousing Southern cowboy whose music tells stories ranging from floods and disaster to love stories and talking pork chops--and they all make you boogie. Although "at peace," the mere formation of the Tri-State Coalition shows that he wants to achieve more.

Now, on to that achievement.

"Confederate Buddha" is comprised of twelve genre-crossing tracks:

1. "Jimmy the Kid" - Originally recorded on the album that shares its name, this song is a fitting introduction to Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition. It not only sets the tone for the album, but it also marks the official change in mindset and style. Originally a slower-paced country ballad, the song now opens dramatically with its main riff and a man on a mission. Jimmy the Kid's not rolling into town alone again--this time he's with his posse, and he's got stories to tell!

2. "Cling to the Roots" -Jimbo has explained that he writes some catchier tunes and puts them to sadder themes, and this song is a prime example. By far my favorite track from the album, the song uses that "Confederate Buddha" complexity to deliver a Southern rock anthem for everyone affected by the flooding down south. Jimbo is a man who wears his heart, and roots, on his sleeve. This song gives me goose bumps every time it plays.

3. "Wheel Upon Wheel" - A nice transition from "Cling to the Roots" that features strong harmonies. The song develops nicely and eventually builds to one of the best song endings on the album. Get your lighters ready!

4. "Town Without Shame" - Like many have mentioned, I felt like I was listening to a lost track from Hank Sr.'s greatest hits album. This is a great ode to the singer-songwriter era of country music.

5. "Leash My Pony" - A put a smile on your face, soul-inspired track with a ragtime undertone. A great example of how Jimbo and the boys have blended genres on this album.

6. "Walks Beside" - Jimbo hasn't only landed a full-time band recently, he also landed a full-time soul mate! Written for his wife, Jennifer, Jimbo croons on the album's love song. Great build, harmonies and emotion in this one.

7. "Glad It's Dark" - And as the "Confederate" to the last track's "Buddha" is "Glad It's Dark." A song of isolation, despair and heartbreak, this song is another track whose lyrics contradict its sound. The keys provide a vintage "AM Gold" feeling, but performed live this song kicks your butt!

8. "Aces & Eights" - A runner-up for favorite track, this song starts off with horns and mariachi flair. While on tour in South Dakota Jimbo realized he was at the hotel where Wild Bill Hickcock was killed by the coward Jack McCall. After a little research Jimbo crafted this song, the true story of what happened that fateful day. Another testament to Jimbo's genre-bending, storytelling ability.

9. "Too Much Water" - A slower-paced blues/rock/country/soul number that features a great piano/guitar duet.

10. "Kine Joe" - This is the boogie track on the album. Like "Jimmy the Kid," Jimbo has crafted another character and shares his story. Features a crazy breakdown.

11. "Shady Dealing" - A straight-ahead rock number about some things you probably shouldn't do! In the same vein of "Little Hand, Big Gun" from the last album, this is the track that gets people on their feet.

12. "Days of High Cotton" - This Southern rock ballad closes the album out fittingly. Jimbo shows great vocal range in this track reminiscent of "Ask My Captain" from the "Knockdown South" album.

From start to finish, this is my favorite Jimbo Mathus album. It crosses genres and it showcases Jimbo's range as a vocalist and storyteller. The Tri-State Coalition has revitalized Jimbo, allowing him to do more than he's ever done before. I've had this album for months, and like a fine wine it only gets better with age. There are songs that I like more than others one week, then those others become more favorites the next. The variety will surprise you, even when you think you have it all figured out.

Also, do yourself a favor and check out Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition in concert. Unlike a lot of other bands, their songs sound even better live!