There are moments when Jimbo Mathus still tries to wrap his head around his career, from the early days in Mississippi and the ’90s whirlwind of Squirrel Nut Zippers, through his current days in Mississippi. Everything seems to come full circle.
“Looking back on a personal musical journey stretching back almost 50 years, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed and somewhat bemused,” Mathus tells American Songwriter.
It’s not so much a blur. Mathus is more mystified by how it all fell into place for him. First recorded in 1984 after winning a battle of bands competition in MS, making music has been an unpredictable ride of hits and misses. “I’ve easily been on a dozen different labels,” says Mathus. “I’ve written and commercially released almost 300 songs. I’ve had some home runs, some foul balls, and many strike outs, but as a wise man once said, ‘Songs are in music, Hits are in baseball.’ Again, looking back on it all is rather perplexing.”
Recorded at Sweet Tea Studios in Oxford, MS and mixed by Dennis Herring, Mathus’ upcoming Stop & Let the Devil Ride (Big Legal Mess), out June 5, is not new at all. First recorded in 2001, following the disbandment of Squirrel Nut Zippers a year earlier, Stop & Let the Devil Ride had a few copies printed and sold in 2003, but the collection of songs never made it online and has been lost for nearly two decades.
Seeped in thick electric blues, Stop & Let the Devil Ride is reflective of Mathus’ career at the time, during his heyday working with Buddy Guy, and offers a sonic glance into his world nearly 20 years later. Mathus also worked with Herring, Tony Garnier and Jim Keltner, on Guy’s Grammy winning 2003 release Blues Singer and found himself immersed in the world of Mississippi blues, touring with the late CeDell Davis as his band leader.
“It’s a great sounding snapshot into my world at that time,” says Mathus. “I had recorded Sweet Tea with Dennis [Herring], Buddy, Pete Thomas and Davey Farragher a few years previous, and had put together a hill country boogie blues trio to tour with Buddy, opening concerts all over the country.”
“Dope Sniffing Dog” is one piece of this poignant chapter in Mathus solo career. Filled in crunching riffs and graveled vocals, the track is a polaroid capture of Mathus’ blues-induced state at the time.
Accompanying the release of Stop & Let the Devil Ride, Mathus’ entire solo catalog of music— from Songs for Rosetta, originally recorded as a benefit project in the ’90s, to 2019’s Incinerator—will be available on Bandcamp through Big Legal Mess Records, where Mathus has found a home and released six albums since 2012.
“I’ll also periodically update the store with new singles currently being written, recorded mixed and mastered,” says Mathus. “I’m humbled to be able to present to you decades of songs, stories, wild gangs of players, and yes, a thread of raw emotional, philosophical and artistic pursuit.”