Growing up with Charlie Patton’s daughter Rosetta as a nanny gives Jimbo Mathus some seriously deep roots in the Mississippi blues. According to Mathus, “Only those born and raised in North Mississippi will know exactly what I mean; to those set adrift amidst broke-dick rednecks, radical Pentecostalism, moonshine bootleggers and Pusser-mania, there are two kings to choose from—Elvis or Jesus.” It’s pretty obvious on Mathus’ latest album, White Buffalo, that he chose Elvis.
This album couldn’t have come from any other state. It has all the elements associated with the Delta—the type of record best served with fried catfish and collard greens. A record that will be covered in kudzu if left untouched for too long, it’s a combination of truck drivin’, dip spittin’ country music and evil lurkin’, whiskey drinkin’ dirty blues with themes of salvation sprinkled throughout the album.
Mathus and Co. bring the heat with the energetic title track, showcasing Matt “Pizzle” Pierce’s ability to wail on guitar while the rest of the Tri-State Coalition pump out unholy blues and Mathus howls lyrics about a dying man. “Run Devil Run” takes the record to a low-down dark hole, close to where the tortured soul of Skip James resides. The next track, “Useless Heart,” wraps the album with a self-pitying ballad that sounds like the answer to Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Overall, Jimbo Mathus and the Tri-State Coalition do a brilliant job of keeping the grit in Mississippi music while maintaining a sound of their own.