Music

Jimbo Mathus: Blue Healer

With his 12th album in 18 years, Jimbo Mathus continues his deliberate shift from the fervent blues that inspired him early on and closer towards Americana.


Jimbo Mathus

Blue Healer

Label: Fat Possum
US Release Date: 2015-04-21
UK Release Date: 2015-05-04
Amazon
iTunes

With Blue Healer, his 12th album in 18 years, Jimbo Mathus continues his deliberate shift from the fervent blues that inspired him early on and closer towards the sound of all-encompassing Americana. Combining some frayed edges and a tattered persona for the free-spirited swing and sway that marked his early output with the Squirrel Nut Zippers, the new album rocks, rambles and plows through the swampy backwaters of the Mississippi delta, the region where Mathus was raised under the influence of a talented musical family. The family genes still hold sway, and here they’re more evident than ever.

Rather than proffer a simple set of songs, Mathus has fashioned a fanciful narrative that attempts to bind the effort together. The supposed Blue Healer at the center of the story is presented as the mythological figure that makes its belated appearance three songs in. It shows up, aptly enough, on the title tune, its dense, somewhat unnerving melody reflecting the lysergic nature of the encounter. From there the story unfolds, in Mathus’ words, about “a man in a southern landscape who is swept insanely apart by internal and external winds. He digs deeper and deeper into the very fabric of his reality, experiencing love and lust, despair, hope and sheer animal exhilaration on levels few ever do. He is tested in every way imaginable and achieves a sort of enlightenment (and) gains power and understanding of life’s mysteries. Yet questions remain. He wonders if the struggle was worth it, or even real. Is he madman or sage? Con man or honest counsel? Is this autobiographical or fictional? Only the Blue Healer knows the answer to the great cosmic heebie-jeebies.”

Hmmm. If that sounds at all intriguing, suffice it to say the music does well by the premise. “Shoot Out the Lights”, “Ready to Run”, “Save It for the Highway”, “Bootheel Witch”, and “Waiting on the Other Shoe to Fall” rock with the same abandon that once inspired Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, the Rolling Stones and Steve Earle and the Dukes, adding a swagger and insurgence in the process. After a while though, the theme begins to matter less than the music itself, which remains captivating and compelling throughout. Mathus’ southern roots never linger very far below the surface, and on songs such as “Mama Please”, “Love and Affection” and “Old Earl”, there’s more than a hint of a tipsy traditional quality that sounds so authentic it could could have been mined with a genuine sass and spirit.

Clearly then, Mathus has created an album that holds together well, and if the concept isn’t always clear, the evocative quality that surrounds it clearly is. Those down home designs never stray far from the surface, giving these dozen songs a well-tended distinction. With Blue Healer Mathus comes into his own as an artist who is more than capable of shining the spotlight on his true source of inspiration: his strong and impenetrable southern roots.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Dancing in the Street: Our 25 Favorite Motown Singles

Detroit's Motown Records will forever be important as both a hit factory and an African American-owned label that achieved massive mainstream success and influence. We select our 25 favorite singles from the "Sound of Young America".

Music

The Durutti Column's 'Vini Reilly' Is the Post-Punk's Band's Definitive Statement

Mancunian guitarist/texturalist Vini Reilly parlayed the momentum from his famous Morrissey collaboration into an essential, definitive statement for the Durutti Column.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

What Will Come? COVID-19 and the Politics of Economic Depression

The financial crash of 2008-2010 reemphasized that traumatic economic shifts drive political change, so what might we imagine — or fear — will emerge from the COVID-19 depression?

Music

Datura4 Take Us Down the "West Coast Highway Cosmic" (premiere)

Australia's Datura4 deliver a highway anthem for a new generation with "West Coast Highway Cosmic". Take a trip without leaving the couch.

Music

Teddy Thompson Sings About Love on 'Heartbreaker Please'

Teddy Thompson's Heartbreaker Please raises one's spirits by accepting the end as a new beginning. He's re-joining the world and out looking for love.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Little Protests Everywhere

Wherever you are, let's invite our neighbors not to look away from police violence against African Americans and others. Let's encourage them not to forget about George Floyd and so many before him.

Music

Carey Mercer's New Band Soft Plastics Score Big with Debut '5 Dreams'

Two years after Frog Eyes dissolved, Carey Mercer is back with a new band, Soft Plastics. 5 Dreams and Mercer's surreal sense of incongruity should be welcomed with open arms and open ears.

Music

Sondre Lerche Rewards 'Patience' with Clever and Sophisticated Indie Pop

Patience joins its predecessors, Please and Pleasure, to form a loose trilogy that stands as the finest work of Sondre Lerche's career.

Film

Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, Venom is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.

Books

Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.

Music

Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.

Film

Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.