Sunday, April 24, 2016

Jimbo Mathus: “Band Of Storms” (2016) CD Review

It seems ages since I saw The Squirrel Nut Zippers in concert, and since then Jimbo Mathus has really created his own musical identity, quite different from the sound and style of that band. A bit of country, a bit of blues, and a lot of rock and roll. His new CD, Band Of Storms, has a delicious raw energy and attitude. And even though there are nine tracks, this is actually an EP, clocking in at just over twenty-three minutes. Yeah, punk style, in, out, no fucking around. And there is certainly some of that punk energy here. All of the songs are originals, written by Jimbo Mathus (except one track, which was co-written by him).

It opens with “Gringo Man,” a tune with a strong bar band rock flavor, but also with horns. “I’m just a school boy/Ain’t never been to school.” It’s a good tune, but for me this CD gets more interesting with the following tracks. “Can’t Get Much Higher” has a cool Dr. John vibe with some great stuff on keys. This track is a whole lot of fun, with some kind of twisted party atmosphere. And then “Let’s Play With Fire” is even better. It’s one of my favorites on this disc. “Yes, let’s play with fire/Oh yes, let’s play with fire/Let’s cross in front of trains/In the darkness feel the flames.” This is the one that was co-written by Robert Earl Reed, and it has something of early rock and roll groove mixed with the darker side of country. It’s just a damn cool song.

“Stop Your Crying” is another favorite, with a slower, haunting feel. “Take this knife, take my gun/Cried my god, what have I done/Killed my woman because she would not be my bride.”  And then “Massive Confusion” is loud, unpolished punk rock and roll. That’s followed by “Wayward Wind,” which begins with a Tom Waits reference, its opening line being “Hang down your head with sorrow,” calling to mind that fantastic tune from Rain Dogs. And like Tom Waits, Jimbo Mathus has a voice full of raw, rough power and emotion. “Don’t look away too long or I’ll be gone/I might not be back this way again/That’s why I say hang down your head with sorrow.” This is a really good song that I like more each time I listen to this disc.

Another favorite is the bluesy “Slow Down Sun.” “Slow down sun/Don’t leave me here so soon.” I really like Jimbo Mathus’ vocal approach here. That’s followed by “Keep It Together,” the title reminding me of Eddie Murphy’s mantra in the excellent movie Bowfinger, and the sound of the guitar reminding me of George Harrison. Jimbo Mathus takes a turn toward bluegrass for the lively, kind of goofy closing number, “Catahoula.” A bit of howling, a bit of stomping, and some fun rhymes make this a delightful tune.

CD Track List
  1. Gringo Man
  2. Can’t Get Much Higher
  3. Let’s Play With Fire
  4. Stop Your Crying
  5. Massive Confusion
  6. Wayward Wind
  7. Slow Down Sun
  8. Keep It Together
  9. Catahoula 
Band Of Storms is scheduled to be released on May 6, 2016 on Big Legal Mess Records.

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