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Published: 2011/06/07
by Brian Robbins

Confederate Buddha, Indeed: the Wit and Wisdom of Jimbo Mathus

BR: Wicked. Next is “Walks Beside” – Eric’s piano is beautiful on the intro.

JM: It sure is.

BR: That song is just chock full of love.

JM: “Chock full of love” – you hit the nail right on the head, my friend. (laughs) I wrote that for my wife, man.

BR: Sweet. That tickles me to hear that.

JM: She’s my girl – show her the love, you know?

BR: That’s so cool. Sounds like we’re two lucky guys: I can honestly say that my wife is my best buddy in the world.

JM: I hear you, man. It took me a while to figure that out – believe me, I had my trials and tribulations.

BR: We all do – that’s where some of the songs come from, right? (laughter)

JH: Exactly!

BR: I have to tell you, though, as much as “Walks Beside” was full of love, “Glad It’s Dark” just gave me the creeps.

JH: It gave you the heebie-jeebies? (laughs) Hey – it did its job. (laughter)

BR: It’s like Springsteen mixed with Larry Brown …

JH: Ha! [Then, off the receiver: “He says ‘Glad It’s Dark’ reminds him of Springsteen mixed with Larry Brown.”] (laughs) I’m in the studio and my engineer’s right here. (laughs) Oh, man … (laughs) Well, hey – it’s pretty much a Southern Gothic pop song, I guess.

I rented a room from a blind woman here in Como a couple of years ago. She lived in this big ol’ Victorian mansion right across the street from the studio here that used to belong to Tallulah Bankhead, the actress. I kind of got in the world of being with a blind person, you know? But she was also a person that lived a lot (laughs) and I’ll leave it at that. She was a fascinating person and I wrote that song for her, as a friend.

BR: Then we have “Aces & Eights”. There really was a Jack McCall, right?

JM: Yes, there was. They called him “the coward Jack McCall” – the murderer of Wild Bill Hickock. “Aces & Eights” is pretty much historically accurate – even the part about the cats. They needed ratters and they didn’t have any cats, so they had to ship them out there. That’s the oldest song on the album – I think I wrote that back in 2005.

BR: And the card hand was what Wild Bill was actually holding when he died, right?

JM: Mmm-hmm; that’s what they call “the dead man’s hand” – aces and eights.

BR: Who’s playing the mariachi horns on that cut?

JM: (laughs) That’s a little group I got together called the Clarksdale Horns. They’re just different horn players out of Memphis and the Delta.

BR: I laughed when I heard it; it sounded like somebody just barely dragging their thumb on an old 45 of “Ring Of Fire”. (laughter)

JM: Yeah – totally. I’m glad you got kick a out of that.

BR: There’s no turning back after “Too Much Water” – that’s it, right? That’s the end of something right there.

JM: You must’ve read my mail. (laughs) Yeah, that’s it, for sure – every possible disaster is happening and it’s all your fault.

BR: I’ve been told that before. (laughter)

JM: As far as that, it’s just different images, you know: like “our darlin’ wandered off” – that’s from Bill Monroe’s “The Little Girl & The Dreadful Snake: “Our little darling wandered far away/while she was out at play”. That’s from one of those old murder ballads … I allowed myself some dark numbers on this album and that was one of them.

BR: You know, as dark as it is, I love that break where Eric starts it on the piano and then hands it off to Matt to take over on the Tele.

JM: He just soars over that, doesn’t he?

BR: Sure does. “Shady Dealings” is your rock and roll song on the album, plain and simple.

JM: (laughs) You gotta have just a stupid rock and roll song every thirty minutes or so, you know what I mean? (laughter)

BR: And then we have the epic closer, “Days Of High Cotton”. What’s that 12-string you’re playing right at the very beginning?

JM: That’s an old Stella 12-string – and then Eric comes in with that great piano part. “Days Of High Cotton” is another one of those Southern Gothic twists, talking about the ironies and the tragedy of the South. It’s historical, but it’s also current. The quote came from Faulkner’s Requiem For A Nun: “The past is never dead; it’s not even past.” That’s where that quote came from. This is Faulkner country; this was his territory. He’s influenced a lot of my writing and he has for quite some time.

BR: It really is a beautiful song, Jimbo.

JM: Thank you so much, my friend.

BR: How about the year ahead?

JM: We want to get out on the road and let people know what we’re doing with Buddha and with the new website, I’ve been working on the site really intently for about eight months and it’s going to be something that really shows people what I’m up to – an authentic, creative, artful, contemporary site. I cannot even turn on a computer so I’m having to translate this out into the world, you know? (laughs) I’m computer illiterate. It’s gonna be beautiful, though: it’ll have a lot of my artwork on it as well as different stories and all the music. We want it to be focused and get the message out there in the world – to places like Maine. (laughter)

BR: Wow – even Maine? (laughter)

JM: Yeah – everybody! We want everybody to know what we sound like and what we’re doing … and hopefully we’ll be coming to a town near you. (laughs)

We believe in the band and we believe in our ability to make people happy. And that’s our goal – to get it out there.

For the rest of 2011 … and for the rest of time, my friend.

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