There’s a rich sense of region and history in JIMBO MATHUS’ music. “I was born into the nexus of Southern / American culture from Elvis to William Faulkner,” he says of his Mississippi upbringing. “i’m continually amazed that these great accomplishments in the arts were somehow achieved in this unlikely location. This state is revered by many worldwide for its arts, culture, cuisine, letters and athletic heroes and abhorred for its cruelty and racism. You can find the depths of ignorance and the loftiest of thinking.”
It’s these contradictions and exposure to a wide variety of musical styles – the music born in the Deep South along with folk music brought over by his Scottish forbearers, fiddlers whose playing paid for their steamship passage in the early 1800s – that inform and color Mathus’ songs. That and his life experiences, from his time at Mississippi State University, studying philosophy and dabbling in punk rock, to his experiences in the Merchant Marines as a river barge deckhand, gave him an affinity for what he calls the “outsiders, the losers, the scrap-heap cast-off people.” His voice is rough but expressive, soulful and haunted. At times he’s a delta Van Morrison, other times he’s got the hard-won wisdom of the late Warren Zevon.
“White Buffalo” is a tribute to Mathus’ love of true American music. “I want to know American music from the inside out, from top to bottom,” he says. “I instinctively knew that there was no fast track to get where I wanted to go to learn what I wanted to know. I came to discover that American music started with the people that came here from somewhere else, with all these cultures contributing something. W.C. Handy, Jimmy Rogers, Charley Patton, Duke Ellington, Chuck Berry, Phil Spector and The Ramones. They all made American music and all it led somewhere – I was determined to find out where.”