New Music 4/5/19: Jimbo Mathus

Hot off the presses: new music!  Better said, new music that is worth your time.

Mathus

Jimbo Mathus – Incinerator – 11 tracks / 41 minutes

In which the former Squirrel Nut Zippers mastermind blows my mind with a solo record of diverse, quirky, and relentlessly entertaining songs.

 

Thanks to an Instagram shout-out from Andrew Bird, I gave this thing a listen – and boy howdy, am I glad.  No choice now but to go back and check out his entire solo catalogue.  Jimbo has an affinity for mixing things up, and on this album there is a little bit of everything; mellow and sweet country ballads (“You Are Like a Song”), forlorn despair blues (“Really Hurt Someone”), bizarre manic ramblings (“Alligator Fish”), and so much more.  The man has some songwriting range, that is for sure, but throughout one thing is constant – the sound of the south and Jimbo’s native Mississippi.

In an interview with The Houston Press, Jimbo boldly proclaimed that “on a scale of 1 to 10, (Incinerator) is a 10 in interesting”, and he is absolutely right.  Even the album’s weaker moments are entertaining, there is very little here that is boring.  Jimbo’s croon is paired delightfully with pretty backing vocals on album opener “You Are Like a Song” and the delightful Tex-Mex stomp of “South of Laredo” – complete with piano chords that would sound right at home in a 19th century saloon.  Remember, pardner, when traveling those vast and unforgiving Texas deserts: if you want to get wet, there is liquor south of Laredo…

The title track is a wonderfully brooding and dark country/rock ditty, and what follows is a masterpiece of remorse, regret, and discontent: “Really Hurt Someone”.  You can feel the despair when Jimbo warbles “I really hurt someone, who cared about me… now I’m living in misery”. Fast forward a few songs and enjoy the wacky goofiness of the Tom Waits-inspired nonsensical ramblings on “Alligator Fish”.

The true gem of the set is the stunning album closer, “Give Me the Roses”, which finds Jimbo asking us to treat each other better while we’re here – don’t wait until someone is gone to appreciate and encourage them.  This line is some solid advice and makes for a pretty song: “Useless are flowers that you give after the soul has gone, kind words are useless when people lie asleep in a narrow bed; don’t wait ‘til death to speak kind words, now should the words be said.”  Truly stunning and perfectly eclectic, this album is worth a listen for anyone who enjoys blues, country, and the grimy underbelly of genius at work.

Key Tracks: “Give Me the Roses”, “South of Laredo”, “Really Hurt Someone”

Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/70Hht1YRBapucTPHX93oKa?si=ppdkJuzNSOOC24FZpMYLqw

 

Also heard:

Sonny & the Sunsets – Hairdressers from Heaven

Ol’ Sonny Smith is back with his Sunsets and they bring us yet another easy-listening collection of pretty (and brief) melodies.  The handclaps and sing-a-long nature of “Searchin’” gets things off to a great start, and “Someday I’d Like To Be An Artist” is a great tongue fully in cheek exploration of stereotypical “artist” life.  Also, don’t miss the old-timey vibes and sounds of the instrumental “The Man Without a Past”.

The Proper Ornaments – Six Lenins

More of the trademark monotone malaise, this time with a bit more drum machine than I care for.  All in all, not a bad effort, but beyond “Apologies” there wasn’t anything for me here.