Music News & Reviews

The Squirrel Nut Zippers bring sounds of the Deep South to Grass Valley

Josh Murray teaches jazz at Rio Americano High School

For 19 years, Josh Murray has lead his students to win awards
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For 19 years, Josh Murray has lead his students to win awards

If you miss the early days of American jazz – Dixieland straight out of New Orleans, Prohibition cabaret, ’30s swing, Delta blues – you’re in for a treat: Jazz band Squirrel Nut Zippers will be performing Aug. 1 in Grass Valley.

The band fuses forms of jazz from the first half of the 20th century with “real dark humor and parody and showmanship” into an “original concoction,” according to frontman Jimbo Mathus.

Between 1995 and 2000, the band sold more than 3 million albums, according to a news release, but it went on hiatus due to internal difficulties in 2000.

Sixteen years later, Mathus recruited fellow New Orleans musicians whose work he “absolutely adored” for a revival of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and its catalog. They’ve been on tour since.

The new lineup, featuring fiddler Dr. Sick and sweet singer Cella Blue, among many others, intends to “put a new energy and a new life” into the music, Mathus said.

Mathus has been based in New Orleans since 1986, a year after he graduated from a small high school in rural Mississippi.

“I had a calling to be a musician, but I had no idea what that entailed,” Mathus said. “I just began groping my way from city to city in the Deep South, looking for some place where I could set up shop and figure out what I could do.”

He grew up in a family of fiddlers and banjo players who exposed him to the “old Southern canon of music,” but New Orleans was his first home as a performer and creator.

The band members most recently revitalized the old sounds of the Deep South in their 2018 record “Beasts of Burgundy,” named after Burgundy Street in New Orleans, which they will perform live at the North Star House.

If you go

When: 7:30 p.m., Aug. 1

Where: North Star House, 12075 Auburn Road, Grass Valley

Cost: $35 for lawn seats, $45 for premium seats; $5 discount for members of The Center for the Arts. Tickets can be bought at the Center’s website.

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