Almanac Music: Jimbo Mathus – South Memphis String Band


DBA’S New Orleans, April 2015


“Jimbo Mathus is playing tonight at DBA’s, anyone interested?”


Jimbo Mathus?


To be honest I had never heard of him but as the suggestion was coming from Brian, our tour leader, undoubtedly, it was an option worth pursuing. Brian is Brian Wise, presenter of Off The Record on 3RRR on Saturday mornings, and a musical institution in Melbourne.


I’m on my second trip to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival with Brian in 2015. Brian has been coming to New Orleans for over twenty years, and in recent times is leading tour groups here.


With a group of like-minded music aficionados the plethora of music to be explored and experienced can at times be overwhelming, though never dull or disappointing, so any hints or recommendations put forward  who to see and hear are readily taken on board so choices can be quickly and wisely made.


I wasn’t certain whether I wanted to go out that night, it had been another full on fantastic day at JazzFest, and I was exhausted. The day had been hot and humid, very crowded, and very draining on the body and soul.


Dinner for the night had yet to be arranged and my body craved food. It is difficult to get food quickly or on the go in New Orleans and the show was due to start within the hour. I didn’t want to burn myself out. But after some cajoling from some of my fellow travellers, I relented and headed to DBA’s with them; and boy, am I glad I did!


Jimbo Mathus, together with his fellow members of the South Memphis String Band, Luther Dickinson and Alvin Youngblood Hart, each individually excellent players within their own right, and collectively, provided me with one of the  highlights of my trip.


DBA’s is situated on Frenchman St on the edge of the French Quarter where you can listen and appreciate the more serious music played in intimate clubs well away from the touristy, glitzy sleaze of Bourbon St. The venue is divided into two small narrow halls, one a performance space with a low stage at the end of the room, the other is the bar area.



Jimbo is seated on a chair centre stage with Alvin to his left and Luther to the right. Seated as if they were lounging  around on a cabin verandah for an evening singalong. Jimbo, a flop of sandy coloured curls falling from under his cowboy hat, his legs stretched comfortably out in front of him, jeans too long for his legs and rolled up to reveal a pair of well worn and probably well-loved boots. His constant smile, and his largish round eyes, brightly express the joy he experiences playing music, especially with his mates. He is an old fashioned rock and roller who enjoys getting back to his acoustic and traditional roots of music. Friendly banter is interchanged between them.


Clearly, these guys love one another and their love of playing music together is obviously profound. Mainly acoustic guitars, mandolin, occasional bass, banjo and harmonica. All are more than proficient on their chosen instrument which is often interchanged with other instruments depending on the specific song.


Luther, the son of famed musician and producer Jim Dickinson, also performs with the Northern Mississippi Allstars and The Word among other projects. His sublime guitar playing is enhanced by his subtle licks emphasising the colour and tone of his astute technique.


Alvin, a large and jovial African American with dreadlocks brings a harder, bluesy edge and feel with his singing and playing to the trio, particularly with his harmonica playing.


DBA’s was an excellent venue for listening to the music of Jimbo and his musical mates  providing the perfect ambience that just made you feel so good and so much a part of the performance. And these guys do this night after night, and never tire of the music they produce, and they want you to join in with them, to become one with them by being a part of their music.


The music they played was a selection of both well-known and lesser-known traditional acoustic string and roots music mainly from the 1920’s. As the night progressed, and the bar worked overtime, more and more of the patrons, especially the locals joined in with the group, singing along in joyous rapture bringing a smile to everyone’s face.


It was really a fantastic, feel good experience and certainly a most memorable night at DBA’s for me.


DBA’s on Frenchman
New Orleans


This story was first published on Stereo Stories


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About Colin Ritchie

Retired teacher who enjoys following the Bombers, listening to music especially Bob Dylan, reading, and swimming.


  1. Tony Forbes says

    Used to enjoy following the bombers until the cats dismantled them.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Very enjoyable, piece, Col. Loved the musical selection, too – made me want to dust of my acoustic guitar and play along!

  3. Frank Perich says

    Being fellow traveller for JF 2019, your DBA review brings back fond memories of experiencing the gigs over and above the Fest Proper. Lost Bayou Ramblers And Little Freddie King come to mind and more. Let’s hope we can do it again who knows when.

  4. Very descriptive and enjoyable, Col. Sounds like it was a great gig.

    I was in New Orleans once, in 1990, and look forward to heading back there again.

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