Jimbo Mathus, founder of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and member of the North Mississippi Allstars, has strong Southern roots and combines blues, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues to create great Southern rock in Dark Night of the Soul.
These 12 original songs combine excellent songwriting with earnest and inspired vocal and musical performances from Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition. Mathus’ guttural voice is perfect for these songs and this style.
“Dark Night of the Soul” sets the stage immediately with its raw vocal and the sparse piano accompaniment at the beginning which builds into a mid-tempo rock song by the end of the number. “White Angel” is reminiscent of the Black Crowes and has mesmerizing lyrics. “Rock and Roll Trash” is classic Southern rock straight from the neighborhood clubs, while “Writing Spider” is this reviewer’s favorite track with a gospel vibe that is very similar to Van Morrison. “Tallahatchie” is a slow and bluesy tune. By this point in the CD, any lover of Southern roots-based music should be thoroughly hooked.
Several of these songs tap into Southern folklore for their inspiration in a way that is simply brilliant. ‘”Hawkeye Jordan” is a classic sort of Southern tale and reminds me very much of early Charlie Daniels. “Casey Caught the Cannonball” takes a familiar folktale and gives it a whole new plot. “Butcher Bird” morphs the “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home” rhyme we grew up with into something new and more poignant.
“Fire in the Canebrake” is another song that evokes Mathus’ immersion in Southern culture to create a song that drags you in to the drama. “Medicine” is a plaintive ballad about drugs that has some sweet pedal steel. The hard-rocking, brutal “Burn the Ships” preaches the dangers of living by the sword with evangelical fervor.
Overall this is an astonishingly good CD which will be loved by anyone who has ever loved Wet Willie or The Marshall Tucker Band or more recently the Black Crowes and the popular roots groups of the day. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Mathus is the real deal and his band is spectacularly talented as well.
First published on Blogcritics at http://blogcritics.org/music-review-jimbo-mathus-the-tri-state-coalition-dark-night-of-the-soul/