Thursday, April 17, 2014

add 0908 Jimbo Mathus

Those who loved the rootsy amalgam of Southern sounds on Jimbo Mathus' 2013 offering White Buffalo may be startled -- at least initially -- by the gritty rock and R&B that run through the veins of Dark Night of the Soul, but they won't be put off. This is a louder, looser, more passionate bookend. It's closer to the bone than anything he has ever released, yet it burns hot and bright with exceptional -- even for him -- songwriting and inspired performances from his "Coalition." These 12 songs persevere in the search for redemption, and rejoice like a Saturday-night-into-Sunday-morning-house-rent party if or when they find it. The title track commences as a piano ballad with Mathus wrenching a guttural vocal from the pit of his belly, but it quickly becomes a loose, rambling, midtempo rocker à la the Faces. Label boss Bruce Watson's production manages to keep a little space between instruments and vocals, but he lets it unfold organically; the set feels live, and some of these tracks are actually first-take demos. In addition to the Tri-State Coalition's fiery musicianship, guests Eric Amble, Matt Patton, and Kell Kellum help out. "White Angel" invokes everyone from Delaney & Bonnie to Leon Russell & the Shelter People to the Black Crowes, all shot through with Mathus' particular gift for poetic lyrics, a fingerpopping melody, and bridge and visceral dynamics. "Rock & Roll Trash" is a classic barroom rocker à la the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers (whose sessions began in Muscle Shoals in 1969) and drops a nod to Lou Reed's memory in the line " to the rock & roll station." "Writing Spider" weaves country, R&B, and folk with a tender, earthy melody and a jangly 12-string electric atop a B-3 for contrast. While "Talahatchie" is a swampy blues based on country gospel and R&B, "Burn the Ships" is a screaming, apocalyptic rocker with Mathus as Old Testament prophet declaring the cost of living by the sword. "Fire in the Canebrake" is a swaggering, funky jam that suggests the Meters locked-down groove, and "Medicine" is a forlorn, country junkie ballad made more poignant by Kellum's sweet pedal steel and the backing chorus of Gid Sunny Stuckey. Dark Night of the Soul comes from a battered, bloodied heart, but is executed with an unbowed spirit. The music is tough, ragged, and rugged, yet it gleams like a polished chrome bumper sitting on a rusted Electra 225 in the sun. Stone killer, no filler

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