It turns out White Buffalo was the gateway to the place inhabited by the brand-new Dark Night Of The Soul. One had to happen before the other, you see: natural steps in Mathus’ evolution as a songwriter – and the Coalition’s amazing ability to turn themselves into a jukebox of the human condition.
There are a number of factors contributing to the stick-to-your-ribs-and-brain goodness of Dark Night Of The Soul. First is the band’s move from Mathus’ Delta Recording Service in Como, MS (a funky old high-ceilinged grocery store converted to a studio) down the road to Fat Possum Records in Oxford. There might only be 35 miles between the two, but the difference is much, much bigger. Delta Recording allowed Mathus to do things his way while wearing as many hats as were needed; by immersing themselves in the Fat Possum vibe, Mathus and the Coalition are even freer to be – which works only because of the ear/heart/soul of head Possum Bruce Watson, a master at applying his studio’s hoodoo to the music created within its walls.
Secondly, Watson’s presence freed Eric “Roscoe” Ambel – producer/arranger/mad scientist guitarist on White Buffalo – to work the floor at Fat Possum with Mathus and the Coalition. Dark Night finds Ambel and Telecaster ninja Matt Pierce weaving their 6-strings like a psychedelicized version of Luther and Carl Perkins. (That would in effect make Mathus a day-glo’d Johnny Cash, which isn’t a reach at all, y’all.) Their guitar work covers the spectrum from warm, pure-toned twangweaves to gritty chuggaraunch to tattered speaker freakout – plus when they double-up on backing vocals they’re capable of everything from Mick ‘n’ Keith Sticky Fingers-era harmonies to Ozark Jubilee-style sweetness to leather-jacketed doo-wop.
Don’t go a’runnin’ off – click right here to read the rest of my Jimbo Mathus review on Jambands.com