Back in the mid 90’s it was a virtual wasteland for old school roots music. Everything was centered around grunge and Seattle, in country music Garth Brooks was flying over Texas Stadium like Sandy Duncan in a Peter Pan production, and even Emmylou Harris was collaborating with U2’s producer. Not to knock that era, but looking for something rootsy was like looking for signs of life on the surface of Mars. Then all of a sudden here came this weird-ass folk rag jazz blues band full of yahoos blowing in from Chapel Hill, North Carolina called the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and popular music got turned on its head.
One of the reasons young angsty Gen X hipster freaks loved the Squirrel Nut Zippers so much is because they felt so incredibly niche, not even the popular kids who’d adopted wearing Nirvana T-shirts would ever touch this stuff. In an age when Nine Inch Nails was being played on popular stations and alternative rock was bigger than anything not preceded by an “alternative” qualifyer, you really had to come out of left field to feel unusual.
But the Squirrel Nut Zippers were so well-received by feisty ears, their 1996 landmark album Hot was eventually Certified Platinum. That’s right, The Squirrel Nut Zippers sold a million records, and never received the proper credit as the true spark of the swing revival that would hit a few years later, probably because by 1999 when swing was all the rage, the band was already disbanded.
Since the golden age of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, the band’s leader Jimbo Mathus has become an underground roots god, and not just from his solo output, but from working as a producer on projects as far ranging as Shinyribs to Col. J.D. Wilkes’ upcoming solo album.
There was an on-and-off period between 2006 and 2010 when the Squirrel Nut Zippers re-emerged as a going concern, but no new studio material came from it; they were strictly a touring band. Then they started up again in 2016, and have since found a groove with a more cohesive lineup, and are releasing their first album in 18 years.
“It’s not a reunion, it’s a revival” says Jimbo Mathus about the band’s latest incarnation and their new album, Beasts Of Burgundy, which includes twelve new original songs, and is said to be inspired by the City of New Orleans, the poet Ron Cuccia, and “a disregard for convention.” It will be released on March 23rd via Southern Broadcasting, and is produced by Mike Napolitano, who recorded all the other previous Squirrel Nut Zippers albums.
- Conglomeration of Curios
- Karnival Joe (From Kokomo)
- Pay Me Now (Pr Pay Me Later!)
- Beasts of Burgundy
- Hey Shango!
- Something Wicked (Pt.2)
- West of Zanzibar
- Rusty Trombone
- Use What Mama Gave You
- Axman Jazz (Don’t Scare Me Papa)
- Something Wicked, Pt. 1