Alcorn County native Jimbo Mathus and his band The Tri-State Coalition played a sold out homecoming show at Grahams Corner Store on Friday night. It was the inaugural show for the new performance hall, located just outside Corinth on Kendrick Road.
The Daily Corinthian had the opportunity to talk to Mathus minutes before the lanky psychedelic country blues picker took the stage.
"Man, it feels great. I’m sitting here looking at the set list I’m doing tonight. And of course I write and compose all my own material. I always have. I’m sitting here looking at all the songs on the set list and thinking, “Wow.” This one, “State Line Women,” is based up on Highway 45 where my mamaw and papaw lived. This one is called ‘Skate Land Baby.” This is where I worked at the Skate Land and had my first romance. And I’m looking down at “Jimmy the Kid,” that’s about my dad, the Mathis family, and I’m looking at how much this area has influenced me," said Mathus.
"I made a lot of my Delta roots. I got into the blues, you know. And that’s where my mom’s from. I’m from the Delta, too. But when it comes down to it, I learned the pickin’ and grinnin’ right here in Alcorn County. The Byrd family, Mathis family, these are all the people that taught me how to play. I learned from my dad, Jimmy Mathis, he was an attorney here in Corinth back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. My uncle, Bobby Mathis, he was a dentist here for many, many years. And this ended up being my home place."
"Like I say, I’ve made a lot of my Delta roots, but this is my real roots right here."
"I’m still fighting to be an artist and still struggling to keep my voice heard and keep my band hittin’ on all cylinders and making my way through the world. You know? There’s no guarantees for the life I’ve chosen. Every day, every month can bring different things. It can be highly unexpected."
"But to me the ultimate joy is being a voice for the South, a voice for literature or music, here in Mississippi and the Deep South. Keep studying, keep learning, keep making better art, writing better songs. There’s always another horizon to cross."
Mathus’ set was enthusiastically received by a diverse crowd of Corinthians. All walks of life were present – from college kids on a budget to doctors and lawyers.
Opening for Mathus, was the Northeast Mississippi duo Scott Chism & The Better Half (aka Lindsey Chism). The couple played a warm set of bluegrass tinged old time country, grabbing the audience from the first song of their set, a song from the point of view of a man who just shot his neighbor’s dog.
Grahams Corner Store co-owners Brian Graham and Cid Gardner were blown away by the level of support show to their first show.
“We’re so glad everyone came out,” said Graham. “It felt like you were in New Orleans or Oxford, but you were only 15 minutes from home.
Graham and Gardner plan to bring a variety of blues, roots and Americana acts to their venue. Tickets are now on sale for their next show on July 19 featuring acoustic duo Carolina Story. They can be purchased at Shirley Dawgs, Franklin Cruise and The Sanctuary.
From the beginning to the end, the night was a celebration of music, Alcorn County and a hometown picker who had returned. Throughout his set Mathus told the stories behind the songs – the people and places that had inspired them. More than once he emphasized the importance of roots, in life as well as in music.
“This song is called ‘Cling to the Roots.’ It’s kinda what I’ve done my whole life,” he said. “I’m 46, and it took me a while to get here.”
(Learn what’s next for Grahams Corner Store by following them on Twitter @grahamstore, on Facebook and their website, www.grahamcornerstore.com.)