Jimbo Mathus & Knockdown South | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jimbo Mathus & Knockdown South

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Former Squirrel Nut Zippers front man James "Jimbo" Mathus does to roots music what first-wave punks did to 60s rock 'n' roll. Mathus's latest album, Knockdown South, released earlier this year on his label of the same name based in Clarksdale, Mississippi, is an audacious mess that combines fractured, macho honky-tonk, trance-blues psychedelia, neo-funk, primitive garage, and snotty juke-punk. The deliciously skewed, barely in-tune "Let Me Be Your Rocker" mercilessly savages several decades of southern R & B and rock; the next tune, "Boogie Music," is a Dixie-fried ode to partying--and to the very same music Mathus was just sneering at. Mathus's backup band has serious chops: "Rolling Like a Log" is a blast of trashy psych streaked with organ, and "Hypmotized" is a haunting piece of impressionistic swamp funk. But Mathus is most effective when he's at his most raw: his half-sung, half-bawled vocals on "Loving Arms," buoyed by a whining pedal steel, strip honky-tonk balladry to its bare essence. Toronzo Cannon & the Cannonball Express open. Fri 5/27, 9 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash, 312-427-0333, $15.

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