Today we’ve gotten together with the Squirrel Nut Zippers—the ultra-creative, ultra-bizarre jazz/blues/swing/klezmer band you know and love—to premiere a new song, “Karnival Joe (from Kokomo).” The track is from Beasts of Burgundy, the band’s first studio album in 18 years. It’ll be released March 23 via Southern Broadcasting.
“It’s not a reunion, it’s a revival,” says longtime SNZ frontman Jimbo Mathus, who brought the successful Nineties outfit back to life in 2016. The current version of the crew includes an all-star cast of New Orleans musicians.
“The Zippers have always been full of outlandish characters that provide great self-referential material for songs,” Mathus adds. “The new revival of the band is no exception and, since we rehearsed the new show on Burgundy Street in New Orleans, I thought of this title and story about the ‘Beasts’ who accidentally miss Mardi Gras.”
“Karnival Joe (from Kokomo),” which you can check out below, comes directly from Jimbo’s interest in carney folk. “I’ve always been fascinated by sideshows and carnivals,” says Mathus, who was the guitarist and musical director for Buddy Guy’s Sweet Tea and Blues Singer albums. “’Karnival Joe’ was inspired by an obscure recording from Doc Souchon and from reading about the the old Cayetano Circus of New Orleans.”
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Between 1995 and 2000, the Squirrel Nut Zippers sold more than three million albums. Their watershed album, 1996’s Hot, was recorded in New Orleans and fueled by a smoldering mix of booze and a hunger to unlock the secrets of old-world jazz. At the time, there were few other bands inhabiting this space. The album broke free of jazz stereotypes and landed on commercial radio, taking the band to remarkable heights for what was essentially an anti-establishment sound.
The group has spent the past two years shaping their chemistry and honing their sound on the road. The fascinating result can be heard—loud and clear—on Beasts of Burgundy.
Below, check out the Beasts of Burgundy track listing and cover artwork (by J.D. Wilkes of the Legendary Shack Shakers), plus the band’s upcoming shows.
Beasts of Burgundy Track List:
Conglomeration of Curios | Karnival Joe (from Kokomo) | Pay Me Now (or 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) | Fade
Squirrel Nut Zippers on Tour:
1/18 East Lansing, MI Mich State
1/19 Traverse City, MI Opera House
1/20 Grand Rapids, MI 20 Monroe Live
2/9 Anchorage, AK Atwood
2/10 Fairbanks, AK Performing Arts Center
2/11 Homer, AK Homer PAC
2/27 Phoenix, AZ MIM Music Theater
3/1 Santa Barbara, CA Campbell Hall
3/2 Palm Springs, CA McCallum
3/3 San Juan Capistrano, CA Coach House
3/4 Berkeley, CA Freight & Salvage
3/5 Santa Cruz, CA Rio Theatre
3/6 Arcata, CA Humboldt State
3/7 Nevada City, CA Miner’s Foundry
3/8 Reno, NV The Saint
3/9 Grants Pass, OR The Rogue Theatre
3/10 Eugene, OR Jacqua Concert Hall
3/11 Portland, OR Aladdin Theater
3/13 Seattle, WA Triple Door
3/14 Seattle, WA Triple Door
3/22 Alexandria, VA The Birchmere
3/23 Pittsburgh, PA Jergels
3/24 Williamsport, PA Arts Center
3/25 Homer, NY Homer Arts Center
3/27 Philadelphia, PA World Cafe
3/28 New York, NY City Winery
3/29 New Haven, CT The Ballroom
3/30 Fall River, MA Narrows
3/31 Plymouth, NH Flying Monkey
4/28 Oxford, MS Double Decker Festival