Jimbo Mathus is like a backyard firecracker. This Oxford, MS-born talent exploded brightly into the skies of the international music scene, but after the show the dust settles back into the Mississippi soil. He has roamed far and wide first as a merchant marine (deckhand and tankerman), through restless footstep wanderings, and continually through musical ventures.
His best-known group was the Squirrel Nut Zippers, formed in the early 1990s in his then hometown of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The group led the swing scene that emerged at the time with their blend of gypsy jazz, swing, rockabilly, klezmer, and of course, delta blues. Their performances were captivating and they were received with great exuberance by audiences worldwide until they disbanded in the early 2000s. Check out a live performance from 1997 on Late Night with David Letterman. But wait!! They’re back! The Squirrel Nut Zippers are re-formed and touring. Check out this live performance in Asheville, NC, and take a look at their website for 2017 tour dates.
With the delta never from the hearts of those who rise from it, Jimbo Mathus returned to Mississippi to start a recording studio in Clarksdale, his mother Jeanella Mathis’ (nee Malvezzi) hometown. Are you catching the connection here? Mathus is kin to Guy Malvezzi of the Shack Up Inn. At the Delta Recording Service studio, they used vintage ribbon microphones to capture brilliant, warm, and rich tones, recording truckloads of artists, including perhaps most notably, Elvis Costello’s song Monkey To Man from his 2004 album The Delivery Man. Check out the cheeky video for this song here!
Jimbo Mathus has had no shortage of near-magical music connections, digging deep into the blues history of his home state. He worked with Buddy Guy, touring with him from 2001-2003. He has been an active player in celebrating the remaining blues legends, such as Arkansas native, Cedell Davis, who in his 80s became a Fat Possum recording artist. Mathus has teamed up with Jim Dickinson, Luther Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart among many others over the years to produce solo records or albums with his band, Tri-State Coalition (Daytrotter session here). From his 1997 album, Play Songs for Rosetta (listen here), to benefit his childhood nanny Rosetta Patton (daughter of delta blues legend Charlie Patton) to 2016’s Band of Storms, out on Big Legal Mess records, Jimbo Mathis is a prolific force to be reckoned with.
Through his various musical incarnations Jimbo Mathus has never been a stranger to Clarksdale. You can catch him annually at the Juke Joint Festival in April in a rarely-used old billiards hall, Messengers, a fixture in the New World District in downtown Clarksdale – just around the corner from the New Roxy! Deep Blues Festival is ecstatic to welcome his back home for the 2017 festival. Stay tuned to our schedule page to find out where you can catch Mathus’ performance. Heck, just come on down to Clarksdale for the entirety of the Deep Blues Festivity and don’t miss a thing! Get your weekend passes here, and start making plans for your delta visit in October for some real, deep, blues.