Jimbo Mathus,
Knockdown South
(independent, 2005)

Jimbo Mathus's Knockdown South is black magic set to music. That magic comes welling out of "Boogie Music," where the guitar pours like smooth oil. You can feel it in the proud notes of "Let Me Be Your Rocker," a 1970s time traveler of a song complete with reverb and guitar work that fills the room with an almost visible purple haze. There's disco in this music spell, the sparkle without the drum machine; and there are horns crackling through an old diner's jukebox; and "State Line Women" calling with their friends out west with an awfully familiar guitar hook. There's even the dry heartbreak of a work song waiting at the end, just in case you've moved through the album untouched.

But the main ingredient in Knockdown South is blues, deep muddy Mississippi blues. It colors the guitar and horns and even the electric piano. Mathus has the voice for it. He can sound heartbroken or overwhelmed or exhausted or wild, or all at the same time. His voice lives in the same low dark realms as his best guitar work, but it's never muddy. Every word rings clear and sharp. His playing is such a perfect fit it's almost surreal, a wishful ideal of what blues guitar should sound like.

Too powerful to be easy listening, Knockdown South will leave you flat on the floor and begging for more.

by Sarah Meador
3 December 2005

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