James "Jimbo" Mathus tasted the limelight as a founding member of the "hot jazz" combo the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Part of the '90s swing revival, they scored a left-field hit with their toe-tapping ditty "Hell." After a stint as Buddy Guy's guitarist, Mathus returned to his native Mississippi, where he started digging into the Magnolia State's rich musical history. His sound now is less kitsch and more kudzu. Last year, he released Knockdown South
, a raucous affair jam-packed with electric roadhouse boogie.
This year, under the name Jas. Mathus (he goes through almost as many names as Will Oldham), he unveiled the more acoustic Old Scool Hot Wings. Lined with traditional tunes, this loose, live-feeling disc finds Mathus performing at some mythical, rural crossroads of country and blues. It's a wonderful showcase for his love of the sounds of Mississippi as well as his sure-handed grasp for this music.