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Published: 2013/03/19
by Brian Robbins

Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition: Ridin’ the White Buffalo

“Poor Lost Souls” is another one that channels ol’ Hank Williams. If you’d mixed some AM radio static behind that one, it could’ve been a tune off one of Hank’s “Mother’s Best Flour” shows.

Put a fiddle in there …

Right!

Hell, yeah! (laughs) Well, you know, that’s the honky-tonk beauty of it. Certain songs are made to be in the honky-tonk format, you know? And when we do it, we’re gonna make sure that rhythm section is playing it properly and the piano man is doing his part. It’s classical music, almost – there’s a form you take.

That’s a story that feels like you had to have been there to write it.

Oh, yeah – absolutely. There’s not one line on the record that I wasn’t there for … and that one’s no different: I’m sitting there on the sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard early in the morning, watching the homeless people wake up and the tourists roll in. It’s as simple as that. And I’m thinking, “Wow – in this land of affluence with all these movie stars and movie moguls and industry people that live like feudal lords, you know … some of the most handsomely-paid people for doing the least amount of meaningful work, as far as I’m concerned … and then you have these people with no place to go and nobody to love them. There you go. I like dealing with those contrasts and try to figure out why it’s like that … all the different sides of life.

The guitar break is lovely, too – with the pan from one to the other.

Yeah, that’s Roscoe playing my 330 on the first part, and then he hands the lead to Matt for that bendy part. It’s a gorgeous song … I really am proud of it.

“Self” is a study in introspection, honesty, and crunchy guitars.

(laughs) Yes – it is all of that.

That one’s like someone looking inside of his own head and poking himself in the chest.

I like to call it the world’s first song about breaking up with yourself. (laughs) There are all the stereotype things you do when you break up with a mate – change the lock on the door and everything; or all the conversations you try to have with people when you’re not communicating – talk all you want without saying anything … but this one’s with yourself.

That song came in a dream … I really have no concept of why I wrote it. I just woke up with it in my head. (laughs)

Sometimes you just have to accept things like that and not question them, right?

Yessir – you are right. (laughter)

“Run Devil Run” – I think I wrote in the review that Ryan and Terrence are like the Karloff and Lugosi of swamp rhythm on that one.

I love that. (laughs) I fucking love that.

That’s a creepy song, man.

Well, I’m doing a series of songs based on spiritual candles that you get in these gris-gris shops, you know? And they have different names for different outcomes.

Oh – I remember talking about that when Confederate Buddha came out …

We were talking about “Kine Joe” – yessir. That’s another in that series and Roscoe picked it out of my batch of songs.

It’s pretty crazy, because what you hear on the album is the first time we played that song.

No.

Oh, yeah. It was first thing in the morning and Roscoe was like, “Hey, man – what y’all wanna do?”

And I said, “Let’s do ‘Run Devil Run’.”

And he was like, “I don’t know …” But we went ahead and did it.

One take later Roscoe walks in there and he was pale as a ghost. “Wow, guys … that was pretty fuckin’ good!” (laughter)

And it was just as creepy to record it as it sounds. (laughter)

It’ll make the hair stand up on your arms, for sure. Now, I know you said that all these songs were written from personal experience, but, man … if that’s the case with “Useless Heart”, I am so sorry.

(laughs) I’m just glad it’s in the past. A woman can destroy you, man.

A bad one can break you; but a good one can make you.

Exactly, my friend. And sometimes life is just a mess – full of despair. And, yeah, that’s a sad song – it’s pretty fucked-up, I’ll admit … but that’s a synopsis of a period of my life a few years back. Before I met my wife Jennifer, I’d kind of set the stage for a big, colossal disaster … and it panned out just the way I thought it would. (laughs) Every time I sing “Useless Heart” on stage, it takes me back there – it’s a good reminder to me of how far I’ve come.

Sometimes you have to go through that stuff to get to a good place.

Yeah – and I hope to God I never know despair like that again. I’ve got that one to remind me and that’s enough. But we’re laughing about it today and that’s a good thing.

You’ve mentioned your wife when we’ve talked in the past. I think we’ve acknowledged before that we’re both lucky guys to be married to our best friends.

Yessir – Jennifer Mathus truly is my best friend. She’s Matt’s sister, you know.

No – I didn’t know that.

Yeah – Matt’s my brother-in-law.

Well, jeez … that makes for some good tunes on family holidays then, doesn’t it?

(laughs) Indeed! (laughs) And it adds another dimension of family to the band, you know? Matt and I are pretty tight – he’s been with me for a long time now.

Well, I can’t tell you anything about Matt’s playing that you don’t already know, but he’s definitely a guitar hero in my book.

He’s a genius on the guitar – he really is. Matt does things that a lot of people … like Luther Dickinson – who’s one of my favorite guitarists – will listen to and say, “I never would’ve played what Matt’s playing right there. How did he think of that?” (laughs) Matt does some shocking and alarming things. (laughter)

Oh, yeah … ‘cause you look at Matt and you’re expecting Bakersfield –

And you might get James Marshall Hendrix. (laughter)

Exactly. So you and the Coalition have a string of dates coming up in March and April – including some gigs at SXSW. I know folks can keep track of what’s going on by checking “your website”:http://www.jimbomathus.com/ … what else should we tease for the coming year?

Man, this is my whole focus. I’m really not accepting any other jobs right now – I want to stay focused on what we have in front of us. Live shows are our job for right now.

Look, I’d be the first to tell you that it’s cold and everything’s covered in snow up here in Maine right now, but it does get nice later on in the year, so … get your asses up here and play.

We will do that – we will most definitely do that. (laughs) Thank you, pardner. I really do appreciate you listening so closely to this music.

I’ve told you before, Jimbo: if it didn’t grab ahold of me, I’d just let it go by and leave it for somebody else to put an ear to.

(laughs) Okay, man – I hear you. But thank you, nonetheless.

*****

Brian Robbins’ satellite is wayyyyyyy up yondo at www.brian-robbins.com

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