Fiddlefreak first became aware of Jimbo Mathus through his membership in the South Memphis String Band, an acoustic side project for members of the North Mississippi Allstars. Jimbo Mathus is perhaps best known for his leadership (with his ex-wife Katharine Whalen) of the now-defunct Squirrel Nut Zippers, who appeared at many prestigious events, including Prairie Home Companion, the second inauguration of Bill Clinton, and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and were awarded gold and platinum records. After the Zippers fizzled, he returned to his native state of Mississippi and released several solo and band records that tap into the heart of southern delta tradition and the Mississippi Hill Country blues, both electric and acoustic.
His new record is Dark Night of the Soul from Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition, on Fat Possum Records. At its most sublime, this record channels the best of The Band, The Dead, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Like a soundtrack for the novels of Faulkner and McCarthy, Dark Night leads us down a muddy path into the deepest, rankest, most lonesome recesses of the American South. And as with all blues, we emerge from the river somehow feeling better than when we jumped into those muddy waters. The songs of Jimbo Mathus wear a rough and tumble patina that may keep them off most radio playlists, but by God he puts his heart and soul into his work, and that’s what is missing from so much of modern music.
Tomorrow marks the American street date for Small Town Heroes, the first release from Hurray for the Riffraff on ATO Records (31 March in Europe). If you’re not yet familar with the rising star of Alynda Lee Segarra, here’s your chance to catch up. With twelve new, original songs all written or co-written by Segarra, Small Town Heroes will most certainly break her music out from the streets of New Orleans and onto the world at large. The band includes her longtime right-hand-man on fiddle, Yosi Perlstein, keyboard player Casey McAllister, and two members of the Deslondes: Sam Doores on guitar and Dan Cutler on bass. The HFTRR website displays five previous records (where have you been all my life?), but we endorse Heroes for a rich, tasty slurp of the Americana-gumbo that is Hurray for the Riffraff.
Small Town Heroes
Not unlike Luke Winslow-King (reviewed here), Alynda’s music lives at the crossroads of indie folk, southern blues, and NOLA jazz. After leaving home at an early age to travel the country, the 26-year-old Puerto Rican from the Bronx eventually settled in New Orleans because of the street music scene, she said in a recent interview. Fiddler Yosi Perlstein is a key player in the group, channeling an authentic Appalachian tone that keeps the music happily rooted in old-time Americana. From moody self-inspection to contemporary cultural commentary to down-home fun, Small Town Heroes from Hurray for the Riffraff brings just the right stuff. Fiddlefreak recommended.
Many thanks to Devon at Hearth Music for turning me on to the third album from Calahen Morrison and Eli West. We heartily recommended their first two releases, and this one raises the bar. I’ll Swing My Hammer with Both Hands is the fruit of veteran guidance from producer Tim O’Brien and contributions from crack fiddlers Brittany Haas and Ryan Drickey. It benefits from a balance of original music with old gospel and country material, both songs and instrumentals.
This album shines with the vitality of youth, the poetry of the wide open West, and the down-home fun of mountain music. Bruce Molsky, Tim O’Brien, and other top artists have endorsed these boys. I hope this is where acoustic American bluegrass is going in the 21st century. Because sometimes, in some hands, it feels a bit stale. Oops–did I say that out loud?
The new record from Kris Drever (of Lau) and Éamonn Coyne (of Treacherous Orchestra) was recently released on Compass Records. OK, it was three months ago but Storymap is a real cracker that deserves a listen. If you follow Fiddlefreak at all you know I have a healthy jones for trad music and this record delivers tradition in spades, from two young and very influential players. Orcadian singer Kris Drever plays guitar while Coyne shreds the four-string banjo and tenor guitar. This is a wonderful selection of tunes and songs, played with finesse and soul, and engineered with plenty of warmth and depth. They’ve employed a top-notch crew of session players to make this a full and rewarding listen. Recommended!
Fiddlefreak reviews alt.country, old time, bluegrass, Celtic, blues, and other music of the people, on a purely subjective basis. MP3 samples are provided for preview purposes only and are not downloadable. Please support the artists by buying the music you enjoy. Contact us.