It would be impressive enough to note that the original string songs Jimbo Mathus wrote so closely mirror classic tunes of that format, notably those on the just-released Old Times There album by the South Memphis String Band, that one must look at the linear notes to differentiate them. But when much-praised singer-songwriter wrote the string tunes, he was also writing an array of songs in the garage band, blues, and rock formats.
It’s not that hard for me, Mathus, a self proclaimed rock music “nut,” said modestly when the quality of the songs he penned was praised. I write a lot, so it’s not that difficult. It’s just different patterns of speech, different chord structure, rhythms, syntax. I don’t know; I get weird little inspirations.
Lucky for fans of alt-country, delta blues, and rock that Mathus has chosen to release some of those musical inspirations on a six-song EP Blue Light, set for a July release. The prolific Mississippi-born songwriter who founded the much-acclaimed Squirrel Nut Zippers, uses this record to share his Mississippi born-and-bred insights.
I’m singing from absolute experience on this recording,” Mathus said in promoting the album. “Raw stories of real events.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that many of the dates on his upcoming tour are in the deep south, so closely tied are the songs to the delta. Sure, they’re easily labelled as rock, but let’s remember that Elvis Presley, the King of Rock, was the consummate country musician, born in Tupelo, Miss., and raised in Memphis.
It all started when long-time friends Luther Dickinson (lead guitarist of the Black Crowes and front man/lead guitarist of the North Mississippi Allstars), GRAMMY Award-winning blues/rock musician Alvin Youngblood Hart and critically-acclaimed musician Jimbo Mathus (of the Squirrel Nut Zippers) joined together musically. The trio had played together in various incarnations through the years but it wasn’t until they truly bonded over the music of their joint homeland, informally dubbed the Hill Country of Mississippi, that the South Memphis String Band was born.
It was electric, said Dickinson of the trio’s combined music for South Memphis String Band, which combines traditional string numbers with original songs primarily written by Mathus. It just came together right away. That’s something that doesn’t happen very much.