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Jimbo Mathus: Knockdown South

Charlie B. Dahan By

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Jimbo Mathus has an important job to do and he has done it impeccably this far. Mathus restores music from America's past and brings it to America's present, offering it in an entertaining and passionate palette to an audience that includes America's youth. You might remember his last endeavor, a traditional jazz revival band from the late 1990s called the Squirrel Nut Zippers. They went on to sell a few hundred thousand records and land on many, many charts. Perhaps his explorations within the music of the American South, more specifically Mississippi, will attain the same success and more importantly, the same exposure to a wide-ranging audience.

Mathus takes his cue from his home in the North Mississippi Hill Country and its gutbucket juke joints. He adds some of the Fat Possum modernisms and what presents on this album is new blues for the modern person; if Charley Patton or Tommy Johnson were to record today, I fathom that Mathus' Knockdown South would sound in the same league.

Nowhere is this alchemy preset than on "Hypnotized. Here Mathus merges the original groove from the Paramount sides of the 1930's and the groovy modern sounds of today's funk and soul artists. Though one would say that Mathus treads a tad too close to a smooth jazz sound, but his feel and evolution in the track soon dismiss those concerns.

Mathus hits his best note on the rocker "Mule Plow Line. Here Mathus combines the late century sounds of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Buddy Guy with the mid-century feel of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. The mix and balance in this track makes it the true showpiece of the recording.

An overall excellent effort from an artist who respects the past and authentically reinterprets it in the present.

Track Listing: 1. Crazy Bout You; 2. Hypmotized; 3. Let Me Be Your Rocker; 4. Boogie Music; 5. Skateland Baby; 6. Mule Plow Line; 7. Loose Diamonds; 8. Be That Way; 9. State Line Women; 10. Rolling Like a Log; 11. Loving Arms; 12. Asked My Captain

Personnel: Jimbo Mathus (guitar/vocals/bass, drums, acoustic piano, mandolin); Darren Dortin (drums); Cedric Burnside (drums); Nate Stalfa (drums); Eric Deaton (bass), Justin Showah (bass), Paul Taylor (bass), Stu Cole (bass); Forrest Parker (pedal steel); BJ Stokes (percussion); Max Williams (guitar); Dave Spencer (guitar); Paul Morelli (horns); Ken Hart (background vocals); Tate Moore (background vocals); Olga (background vocals); Black Diamond Heavies (background vocals); Will Dawson (Wurlitzer electric piano)

Title: Knockdown South | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Knockdown South Records

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