Jimbo Mathus / Jimbo Mathus & the Tri-State Coalition

Dark Night of the Soul

  • AllMusic Rating
    8
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Those who loved the rootsy amalgam of Southern sounds on Jimbo Mathus' 2013 offering White Buffalo may be startled -- at least initially -- by the gritty rock and R&B that run through the veins of Dark Night of the Soul, but they won't be put off. This is a louder, looser, more passionate bookend. It's closer to the bone than anything he has ever released, yet it burns hot and bright with exceptional songwriting and inspired performances. These 12 songs persevere in the search for redemption, and rejoice like a Saturday-night-into-Sunday-morning-house-rent party if or when they find it. The title track commences as a piano ballad with Mathus wrenching a guttural vocal from the pit of his belly, but it quickly becomes a loose, rambling, midtempo rocker à la the Faces. Label boss Bruce Watson's production manages to keep a little space between instruments and vocals, but he lets it unfold organically; the set feels live, and some of these tracks are actually first-take demos. In addition to the Tri-State Coalition's fiery musicianship, guests Eric Amble, Matt Patton, and Kell Kellum help out. "White Angel" invokes everyone from Delaney & Bonnie to Leon Russell & the Shelter People to the Black Crowes, all shot through with Mathus' particular gift for poetic lyrics, a fingerpopping melody, and bridge and visceral dynamics. "Rock & Roll Trash" is a classic barroom rocker à la the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers (whose sessions began in Muscle Shoals in 1969) and drops a nod to Lou Reed's memory in the line "...dance to the rock & roll station." "Writing Spider" weaves country, R&B, and folk with a tender, earthy melody and a jangly 12-string electric atop a B-3 for contrast. While "Talahatchie" is a swampy blues based on country gospel and R&B, "Burn the Ships" is a screaming, apocalyptic rocker with Mathus as Old Testament prophet declaring the cost of living by the sword. "Fire in the Canebrake" is a swaggering, funky jam that suggests the Meters locked-down groove, and "Medicine" is a forlorn, country junkie ballad made more poignant by Kellum's sweet pedal steel and the backing chorus of Gid Sunny Stuckey. Dark Night of the Soul comes from a battered, bloodied heart, but is executed with an unbowed spirit. The music is tough, ragged, and rugged, yet it gleams like a polished chrome bumper sitting on a rusted Electra 225 in the sun. Stone killer, no filler

blue highlight denotes track pick