Jimbo Mathus & Andrew Bird
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Release date: 3.5.21
Label: Thirty Tigers
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These 13 is a little bit folk, a little bit gospel, a little bit bluesy, a little bit Hank, a little bit hill country, but most emphatically, it is all heart. Andrew Bird and Jimbo Mathus have climbed the height of their creative ladders in this collection of soul-strung songs, both lyrically and musically, a synchronicity between the two that feels joined in some special imaginative place that can only be visited by the best of songwriters. I feel cleansed when listening to this album, exhausted by the sensory hustle of all the white noise, These 13 allows me to settle, to immerse myself in the serenity of original sound, written by original artists, delivered with a kind of feeling that makes you want to roll down the windows and ride or watch the sun go down or take off your shoes and walk across a muddy creekbank. From the wonderful melancholy and soulful beginnings of “Poor Lost Souls,” to the old country echoes of “Burn the Honkey Tonk” to the getty-up and hope of “Sweet Oblivion,” this album moves me from one place to another with careful hands. In some ways, These 13 makes me wonder things I’ve always wondered about music – what the hell happened to it? But I think I know the answer. Nothing. Nothing has happened to it. It is right here. It lives and breathes with strings and keys and vocals, all stretched to their most hurtful and redeeming places. Nothing has happened to music except that you have to know where to find it, and Andrew and Jimbo are leading us to the place, right smackdab in the middle of These 13 is where we can all sit together and enjoy. - Michael Farris Smith
I met Jimbo in the summer of '94 in Black Mountain, North Carolina. I had been working as a medieval fiddler at a renaissance fair in Wisconsin and was playing with my anachronistic brethren at the folk music festival there. He was playing there with his outfit, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and I gave him a tape of me playing some hot-jazz. Shortly thereafter he asked me to sit in with them in Chicago. Thus began a 25 year friendship. Up until then, all my musical heroes were dead. Jimbo was anything but and just oozed musicality of a kind I thought was extinct. Had I not met Jimbo, who knows, but I think my music would have gone on a much more cerebral, complex trajectory. Playing with him on my many visits to his farm in North Carolina helped ground me in an honest and raw simplicity. He is an enigma, a walking contradiction: wild yet refined, worldly yet colloquial. He represents his own branch of the American musical tree. He turned me on to Charlie Patton when he asked me to play on Play Songs for Rosetta, an album dedicated to Patton’s then living daughter, who Jimbo grew up with in Clarksdale, Mississippi. I was entranced by Patton’s disregard for the 8-bar phrase. He was off the western musical map. Though I wouldn’t call Jimbo a preservationist as that word makes me sleepy, but he too is off the map in a way that Is almost unheard of. So, it’s been my dream for years now to make this record with Jimbo. Just guitar, fiddle and our very different voices. I wanted to make sure you can really hear him as if for the first time. Every one of these 13 songs were written in collaboration. Jimbo would send me a few verses and I would just complete the thought. It was that simple. That’s never really happened before. Hope you enjoy These 13.
Musically speaking, Andrew challenged me early on. As I had the deep south rural musical upbringing but had yearned to know more of the Chicago and New York scenes of those early days of American popular music. Bird had schooled himself on that, absorbing the European strains of American music and theater, as well as the Chicago-based indigenous albeit transplanted African American musical heritage. It was a true mutual benefit society and we both pursued those goals to a final conclusion. At some point after Andrew had been on the road as “Bowl of Fire” for some years, he began mutating his music and creating an entirely new form. In other words, he started to become the artist he needed to be at that time and so did I. Our paths diverged for almost two decades.