Jimbo Scott Dives in Heart First

As the greenest member of North California jamgrass collective Poor Man’s Whiskey, Jimbo Scott was just beginning to get the hang of life on the road when the band went on indefinite hiatus last month. After two decades of playing more than 100 shows a year, founding members Josh Brough (banjo) and Jason Beard (mandolin) decided it was time for a long, unscheduled break.

“How do I push myself in a career that doesn’t allow you very much time at home and balance that with how much I love being on stage? I think it’s a tension a lot of musicians are familiar with.”
–Jimbo Scott

“It’s an opportunity for us to stretch our legs and try other projects,” says Scott. “I was there just long enough to get a taste for it all and now I’m pretty hungry. It’s not goodbye, but we’re not necessarily setting a time limit on it either.”

Jimbo Scott
Feb. 1 | 3 p.m. | Village at Squaw | Olympic Valley

Jimbo Scott Trio
Feb. 15 & 16 | 2 p.m. | Base Lodge | Alpine Meadows

After meeting the band while opening for them as a solo artist at Murphy’s hidden gem Brice Station Vineyards in 2017, Scott joined Poor Man’s Whiskey the following winter on the departure of erstwhile guitarist David Noble.

“It’s been kind of a quantum leap for me in a lot of ways,” he says. “I’ve had the opportunity to play venues I’ve never played before and connect with musicians I’ve never met before.”

Hands down the biggest thrill of the ride (so far) was performing for a sold-out crowd at The Fillmore in San Francisco. Although his birthplace is Memphis, Tenn., Scott grew up in the Oakland hills, so this fabled venue was always on his mind.

“Throughout the world it’s known as a pinnacle of rock ‘n’ roll,” he says. “I don’t think there were any other stages that felt more important to me. I couldn’t seem to wipe the grin off my face the entire time.”

Sets on the Swan Stage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and three days at Kate Wolf Music Festival represent a couple more moments of the past two years that seem a bit surreal.

It had been six years since the introspective indie rock of “Weekends at the Mad House” when Scott released his second solo album in September. In the vein of Woody Guthrie, John Moreland and Reverend Gary Davis, the honey-eyed, honest Americana of “Where the Heart Is” includes an assortment of beautiful songs about long roads, love and loss.

Through echoes of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” nearby where Scott was born, the record begins: “Sunrise on the Sacramento Delta riding on the causeway with the wind/ Somewhere west of here my girl awaits me, but today I’m headed to the east again.”

It’s a theme Scott has been contemplating a lot lately, especially since he and his wife Marissa welcomed Oliver Oso Lopez to the world on Dec. 18. At home in Castro Valley on New Year’s Day, his newborn son naps while Scott tinkers away on his solo projects.

“I love being with my wife and I’m also very passionate about playing music as my friends and family all know,” he says. “She’s been a huge support the whole time I’ve been pursuing this career. So how do I balance these two things? How do I push myself in a career that doesn’t allow you very much time at home and balance that with how much I love being on stage? I think it’s a tension a lot of musicians are familiar with.”

The new album features a fine cast of supporting artists including Erik Yates of Hot Buttered Rum on dobro and flute and Anton Patzner of Foxtails Brigade on violin and viola. Scott weaves his smooth baritone voice about the state of current events and issues, a heartfelt call to those in need.

Originally inspired by news coverage following Hurricane Harvey, “Hail to the Innocent” explores our tendency to observe suffering from a distance as if it were a spectator sport. “Live Free” offer three vignettes of American immigrants: Scott’s Irish ancestors who arrived during the 1840’s potato famine, Bay Area residents affected by the Chinese Exclusion Act and modern-day refugees whose tent cities strung along the border continue to grow as they flee violence in Central America.

“We live in troubled times,” says Scott. “In general, how we interact and the state of discourse is pretty awful right now. I believe we need to spend more time not just talking, but listening. I believe we need less anger and more empathy. I think it’s important to remember, whether it’s ourselves personally or our ancestors before us, we have all had troubles at some point and we have a responsibility to look out for fellow humans.” | squawalpine.com