Let’s do the time warp again, this time back to Thanksgiving. I mentioned in a previous post that we had been to a Jimbo Mathus concert while in Jackson with my boy Ian Williams Nationwide, but never further commented on it. So here we go.
I met Ian at my college orientation weekend over ten years ago and we’ve been best of buds ever since. We even did AmeriCorps together out in Denver (though on separate teams). And over the years Ian has grown increasingly in love with and knowledgeable about the Blues. So as this last Thanksgiving holiday approached, he called to see if we wanted to meet over in Jackson, MS at Hal and Mal’s and see a Mathus show. I started making some plans, and late Friday the 24th, we were sitting there listening to the funky sounds of the Knockdown South.
I discovered Mathus about the same time I met Ian. Mathus was one of the founders and lead singers of the Squirrel Nut Zippers (pictured above), a jazzy- neo-swing-bluegrassy-dixieland-surrealist-whatever outfit that made some great music. You may have heard their bizarre hit single “Hell” in which Tom Maxwell, one of the other singers, delightfully spells out the word “damnation” and gleefully expounds on how shitty your afterlife will be in hell. Great song. Seriously. Check out the video below:
The SNZ are still one of my favorites, though the band only had four proper solo albums. However, they had a slew of singles and side projects, and Mathus delved into his love of the blues on several albums and solo tours, the first of which was with the Knockdown Society, which has now morphed into the Knockdown South.
The SNZ are now defunct after Maxwell left, lots of line-up changes, and a divorce between the two other original founders, Mathus and Katherine Whalen. I never did get a chance to see the SNZ, but I have seen Mathus three times now. Now he’s a laid-back, easy-going country boy who’ll shake your hand and invite you to join him for a drink. But when I first met him, which was in Vicksburg at the Biscuit Company (also now defunct) during the hey-day of the Zipper’s popularity, he was still super friendly but jumpy and acting all tweaked out. He was talking to me right up in my face and kept apologizing because he repeatedly kicked me as he squirmed and bounced in place. The show was great, I sat at the bar and chatted with the original bass player for the Zippers (also touring with Mathus), and then talked to Mathus again after the show.
The next time was in June of 2005 at the Ameristar Casino in Vicksburg, with Chris Blue, Palmer Shiers, and my Dad. Another good show, this time as the Knockdown South.
This last show was also very good. The music really is funky, fuzzed out blues but the band can play. I am always impressed with how well Mathus himself can play a guitar. Check him out if you get the chance.
(Photo by Fuzzy Gerdes)
CLICK HER TO SEE FUZZY’S PHOTO SET FROM THE MATHUS SHOW.