JIMBO MATHUS – DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
A new album due out on Fat Possum Records February 15
Few studio albums have had a birth process like Mathus’ imminent new release, Dark Night of the Soul, due out February 15, 2014. To create his ninth album, the singer-songwriter spent nearly a year going to Dial Back Sound Studio, near his home in Taylor, Mississippi, to work on new tunes. Dial Back Sound, however, isn’t just any conveniently located studio, but one operated by Fat Possum Records’ Bruce Watson, who offered Mathus this extended opportunity to create the follow-up to his highly-regarded debut White Buffalo.
Like having a regular gig at a neighborhood bar, Mathus would drop by the studio every couple of weeks and hash out song ideas with engineer/instrumentalist Bronson Tew. Mathus ended up with around forty songs and Watson heard them all. “He acted as my editor” Mathus explains. “I really trust him. He would come in and say ‘I like this or could we change a little of that?’”
Mathus enjoyed the casual, low-pressure studio environment but also felt challenged to bring new material to the table every week. “I would pull out scraps of paper from my wallet that normally I would dump in the trash and those would be the ones that Bruce liked.” The ones Watson would gravitate to be the darker songs — the ones, Mathus confides, he would typically keep private. “So collaboratively” he says “we brought them to life.” This process resulted in his most personal and hardest rocking album to date. While on earlier releases, the Mississippi-bred Mathus tended to showcase his encyclopedic facility with Southern roots music, this time, however, he really wanted to play his songs unselfconsciously — “letting them just fall off the bone.”
This musical DNA has been in him since birth. His father and relatives were all skilled musicians who filled the house with old folk, country and blues tunes. By the age of eight, Mathus was joining them on mandolin and by his teenage years had learned guitar and piano. High school led to playing in punk and new wave bands. Post high school, Mathus studied Philosophy at Mississippi State University before leaving to travel around America. In doing so he worked various jobs, including an influential stint as a barge tankerman on the mighty Mississippi River.
With the South being so central to his life, it’s no surprise that Mathus and his band are very popular there. “I could stay in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana and never have to leave” he admits “but the point is I want people to hear this album — to bring a little gris-gris to the rest of America”.