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Between Mathus’ Squirrel Nut Zippers resume and Bird’s days with his Bowl of Fire, this record could have sounded much, much different – and, maybe, just maybe, still as rich. The two could have done an amazing job revisiting the jazz and swing, Eastern European folk and gypsy rites of their youth. Instead, These 13 unfurls as an engaging look at more organic, near-extinct idioms and forms, with the duo handling passionate acoustic-folk ballads, Stephen Foster-era Americana and early Honky Tonk as assuredly as it does the Mississippi delta blues. If you’re looking for mis-steps, look elsewhere; you won’t find them here.

The record opens with “Poor Lost Souls,” a ballad in the tradition of Foster, where Mathus bellows details about people living and dying on the wrong side of the tracks. But “Sweet Oblivion,” the LP’s second track, raises the bar even higher with bluesy refrains on two acoustic guitars. “Sweet Oblivion,” like other gems on the 13-song LP, is such a studied piece of Depression-era blues that listeners might find themselves forgetting the thing was cut in the 21st century. It transports you. There are no visible lulls or downsides to this album – and that’s saying a lot for a record whose performance and recording tones are stripped down to their rawest truths.