Falsetto singing can be lovely and all, but the practice has definitely reached its saturation point among male vocalists. It’s gotten to where a man simply sounding like a man over the course of an entire album seems downright revelatory, which is what makes Jimbo Mathus’ new album (out April 21 on Fat Possum) such a no-bull treat.
Blue Healer is a 12-song collection of rip-roaring southern rock with a pinch of Cajun seasoning. That Mathus is the one presenting such a sturdy, bad-ass LP is somewhat surprising, considering he once rode one of pop music’s most unlikely rocket ships as a founding member of swing revivalists The Squirrel Nut Zippers. If you hated those aggressively peppy Gap commercials in the late ‘90s, feel free to heap some blame on Jimbo’s shoulders.
It’s hard to believe Blue Healer has been concocted by the same artist. But what Mathus has done since falling back to earth has been to stay firmly planted there, patiently cultivating his musical roots as a native Mississippian. On standout tracks like “Sometimes I Get Worried,” “Coyote” and “Ready to Run,” he sounds like a cross between Warren Zevon, Johnny Cash and Elvis Costello, and has assembled a positively scorching backing band that props up even goofy tunes like “Old Earl.”
Blue Healer is an album for drinking moonshine in the woods with your shirt off when it’s real damn hot outside. If someone showed up to such a swampy soiree with wingtips and a martini, he’d either get his ass kicked or be mistaken for a peyote apparition. That Mathus has made music which caters to both extremes is testament to his extraordinary versatility.