James Mathus and His Knockdown Society
Mammoth Records CD 165520, 2002 (52:29)
Eclectic juke joint music
Linda Dailey Paulson, 3 May 2003
James Mathus is best known for his work with the Squirrel Nut Zippers, but he's been hanging out with blues guys as of late, including Buddy Guy on whose recording Sweet Tea Mathus appears. Now he is dipping into juke joint music on National Antiseptic, with the help of the Dickinson clan.
Papa Jim Dickinson shares a producing credit and plays keys; Luther and Cody, best known as half the North Mississippi Allstars, also sit in. Which raises a fair question: are the North Mississippi Allstars more interested in being a band for hire or doing their own work these days? The band is also part of The Word, a gospel funk album that has been getting rave reviews (including ours). But I digress...
From the opening tune, you can tell that, like much of the Squirrel Nut Zippers fare, this is good time party music. "Call Your Dawgs Off" has a definite ? and the Mysterians feel to it with its bulging sax thrums and insistent organ. "Snake Drive," with its insistent drum line, is a muscular blues with nothing much else to it. It would work as an instrumental. The faux phone call intro to "Hambone" could have easily been discarded. It's a gimmick and adds nothing to the song. The easy tempo'd "Shake It and Break It" is good fun inspired by N'Orleans piano blues, with a funky mandolin break by Luther Dickinson. Simple and extremely effective - as are the mandolin accents on "Back to the Bottoms." "Shake It..." is now a frontrunner for this publication's theme song : "Ev'ybody got the jelly roll like mine. ... All God's chillen got a jelly roll. With m'jelly. With m'roll. Oh mama dontcha let it fall." Yes, indeed!
Mathus draws from shuffles, boogies and high octane blues in this 15-tune project. The sum is an interesting original blues amalgam.
performers James Mathus, bass, guitar, mandolin, vocals; Jim Dickinson, piano, farfisa organ; Luther Dickinson, guitar, mandolin; Cody Dickinson, percussion, drums, background vocals; Patrick Smith, Hammond synthesizer; Greg Bell, organ, piano; Jim Spake, alto sax; Jack Oblivian & Impala, guitar, background vocals; Stud Cole, bass; Ted Zarras, drums; Greg Humphries, Harmony Four, background vocals
production Produced by James Mathus, Jim Dickinson, Rice Miller and John Plymale; mixed by Kevin Houston; mastered by Brent Lambert.
songs Call Your Dawgs Off · Take A Ride · Snake Drive · Drinkin' Antiseptic · Stranger · Innit For The Money · Shake It And Break It · Rock Of Ages · Boogie · Issaqueena St. Shuffle · Spare Change · Chicken Town · Hambone · Back To The Bottoms · Nightingale