Lucky 13

Andrew Bird and Jimbo Mathus perform virtually at OSU

Photo by Reuben Cox

There’s something both cerebral and untamed in the pairing of musicians Jimbo Mathus and Andrew Bird. 

Their brand-new collaboration, These 13, out now, is a collection of acoustic old time gospel, country blues and folk music. 

On Wednesday, May 12, the musicians and friends appear free online in the latest installment of Oregon State University’s American String Series, offering conversation and pre-recorded musical performances. 

Both are students of itinerant and old-time music from throughout the 20th century. Mathus, who was bandleader with swing-music revivalists Squirrel Nut Zippers, is a musical autodidact. (The Zippers, by the way, are slated to play The Shedd in Eugene in November, COVID permitting.)

Bird is a virtuosic whistler, of all things, and played violin in the Zippers. He is classically trained, having graduated from Northwestern University Music School. 

Since then, he’s built an eclectic career applying an academic eye to vintage styles with groups like Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire, among many others.

From the stomp-clap barnyard boogie of tracks like “Sweet Oblivion” to the mournful squeeze box on tunes like “Bright Sunny South,” the two musicians blend on the 13 tracks with a friendly familiarity, recalling well known collaborations between Jerry Garcia and David Grisman. 

Mathus’ voice throughout is country-strong in all the right ways, while Bird’s tenor is a cleaner and more gleaming thing. 

Jimbo Mathus and Andrew Bird appear virtually live in conversation with Bob Santelli, OSU’s director of popular music and performing arts, along with prerecorded performances, 5 pm Wednesday, May 12 online; FREE. To register for the event, go to