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Jimbo Mathus | Incinerator

The southern singer-songwriter's umpteenth disc also happens to be one of his best.

Jimbo Mathus always seems to have a lot of irons in the fire. Or should that be irons in a lot of fires? Either way, he’s a busy dude. Since the ’90s, he has led Jazz Age Americana revivalists Squirrel Nut Zippers. During their sometimes-lengthy hiatuses, he’s released more than a dozen rustic, rootsy albums with a long list of players and ensembles like His Knockdown Society, The Tri-State Coalition and The South Memphis String Band (which included Luther Dickinson and Alvin Youngblood Hart). And let’s not even get into all the artists he’s written songs for and produced. Bottom line: His dance card is full. More importantly, however, he manages to deliver quality along with quantity. After a couple of decades of listening, I have yet to hear a bad Mathus album. That includes his latest more-or-less solo set Incinerator. It’s something of a departure for him: He plays piano instead of guitar — and acquits himself quite impressively, BTW — and supposedly cut it on the fly over a couple of days. The latter comes across in the lively performances, unvarnished vocals and no-frills production from Drive-By Truckers bassist Matt Patton and multi-instrumentalist Bronson Tew. But none of that inhibits the stylistic and sonic possibilities on display here. You’ve got vintage-sounding country gospel (You Are Like a Song), smouldering roots-rock (the Joe Henry-like title cut), stirring string-laced piano balladry (Really Hurt Someone), a Tex-Mex waltz (South of Laredo), sizzling swamp-rock (Alligator Fish), Hendrix-infused blues (Sunken Road, a duet with Lily Hiatt), a Carter Family cover (Give Me the Roses) and more. Put it all together and it’s not just another great Mathus album — it may actually be one of his best. And that’s saying something. Pull up a chair and warm yourself by the fire.