A specific producer, and what he could do with the band's sound, as the impetus for "White Buffalo," the third album from Jimbo Mathus & the Tri-State Coalition.
This time out, Mathus says, "I was able to my hands off the wheel as producer" and bring in Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, the former Del-Lords member who's helmed sessions for Nils Lofgren, the Bottle Rockets, Freedy Johnston and many other. And Ambel brought with him a specific vision for the Tri-State Coalition, according to Mathus.
"Roscoe was a fan from afar and was interested in putting his idea about what Jimbo Mathus music should be out there for the people," explains the Oxford, Miss.-born Mathus, 46, who was a co-founder of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. "He wanted a very potent, short, explosive record with the band just really live in the studio and to kind of introduce people that didn't know my music -- sort of a best of all world type of introduction to my sound.
"It was kind of surprising how cohesive it could all sound, how the different styles could gel together. I was surprised Roscoe was able to make it seem so unified, even though there's quite a bit of different music on there. I've seen some people describe it as country, some describe it as blues. I don't think it's either of those -- I think it's all the above."
"White Buffalo" actually includes some older Mathus songs, including "Useless Heart," which he estimates dates back to 2005, and "Tennessee Walker Mare," which he wrote circa 2009. There are fresh compositions as well, and the album turned out well enough to net Mathus a new recording deal -- with Fat Possum Records -- and whip up his enthusiasm for a long tour to promote the set.
"I've successfully avoided that for awhile, but this time they're not putting a gun to my head. Everyone is excited to do this," Mathus says. "I'm actually getting rid of other projects as much as I can just to focus on what we've got to do here. I"m not trying to do any side bands or any other musical projects -- I've even stopped the producing I've been doing.
"I want to safe my focus for Tri-State and what we need to do. I feel like after a point I've done enough side things for awhile. I want to focus on this and feel like we gave it everything we possibly could."
Jimbo Mathus & the Tri-State Coalition performs with Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band and Alvin Youngblood Hart on Friday, March 22, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave, Ferndale. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18. Call 248-544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.
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