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Along with his work in the Squirrel Nut Zippers, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jim Mathus pursued projects outside of the group (often under slightly different names, including James Mathus, Jas Mathus, Jimbo "Hambone" Mathus, and Jimbo Mathus), appearing on collaborator Andrew Bird's albums Thrills and Bowl of Fire. In 1997, Mathus, Zippers bassist Stu Cole, producer Mike Napolitano, and pianist Greg Bell formed the Knockdown Society and released Play Songs for Rosetta, a collection of bluesman Charley Patton's songs that benefited his daughter Rosetta and her family. His music took another turn in late 2001 with the release of National Antiseptic, this time offering tribute to the electric juke joint swamp rock of the Deep South. That same year he appeared on Buddy Guy's classic Sweet Tea offering. Mathus followed up with the similarly bluesy and eclectic Stop and Let the Devil Ride in 2003, and two years later Knockdown South was issued.
Mathus decided to return to the acoustic roots of Mississippi blues and country with Old Scool Hot Wings, which came out in 2006. Also appearing in 2006, this time under the name Jimbo Mathus, was the album Jimmy the Kid, released by Artemis Records and re-released in 2014 on Hill Country. Mathus stuck with the Jimbo moniker for his 2011 full-length Confederate Buddha. Blue Light, a six-song solo vinyl EP, arrived in 2012, followed by the full-length White Buffalo in 2013. In February of 2014, Mathus and his Tri-State Coalition band issued the electric Dark Night of the Soul. He contributed to songwriter Ian Siegal's Picnic Sessions the same year. Mathus desired a completely analog sound for his next record. To that end, he recorded at Water Valley, Mississippi's Dial Back Sound, the home studio of Fat Possum label boss Bruce Watson. He emerged with the loosely knit concept offering Blue Healer in the spring of 2015.