Blues & Ballads A Folksingers’s Songbook: Volume I & II
New West Records
Luther Dickinson, guitar; and his brother Cody, drums; were born in Memphis the sons of legendary musician/producer Jim Dickinson.
Luther’s discography includes early recordings with bands such as “D.D.T.” and “Gutbucket”. After years working as part of the rock club circuit the hill country blues came calling. He and his brother formed the North Mississippi All-stars in 1996 and released their first album “Shake Hands With Shorty” in 2000 on the Tone-Cool Records label. Luther has occasionally returned to rock having recorded two albums with songwriter John Hiatt and two with The Black Crowes. The North Mississippi All-stars have a total of nine albums to date the last being 2013’s “World Boogie is Coming”.
In 2012 Luther released “Go on Now, You Can’t Stay Here: Mississippi Folk Music Volume 3” with The Wandering. This new album is a sort of follow up. Luther has written or co-written all of the 21 songs but they have been inspired by lessons and traditions he has learned. The band includes Luther, guitar, mandolin, piano and vocals; and his band The Cooperators with Sharde Thomas, drums, fife, and vocals; Amy LaVere, upright bass and vocals; Lillie Mae Rische, fiddle and vocals; Charles Hodges, keyboards; Paul Taylor, tub bass; Jimmy Crosthwait, washboard; and backing singers Sharisse and Shontelle Norman.
The album opens with “Hurry Up Sunrise” inspired by fife and drum master Otha Turner (1907-2003) whom Luther credits as co-writer. It originally appeared on the 2005 North Mississippi All-stars “Electric Blue Watermelon” recording but this version is a stripped down and intimate vocal duet with Thomas whom also happens to be Turner’s granddaughter. This song is a beauty.
Luther wrote “Ain’t No Grave” shortly after the passing of his father Jim. It was originally featured on The North Mississippi All-stars 2011 “Keys to The Kingdom”. Joining in on this deeply moving version is Mavis Staples. “Bang Bang Lulu” and the fantastic “Moonshine” were both co-written with the elder Dickinson. Luther states that this album was the most casual he has ever made as it was recorded over a long period of time with friends at studios in Chicago, Nashville and Memphis.
Jason Isbell plays slide guitar on “Up Over Yonder” while JJ Grey harmonizes on the vocal. “Ol’ Cannonball” is all Luther, guitar and vocal. Luther, Alvin “Youngblood” Hart and Jimbo Mathus have recorded two albums as The South Memphis String Band and the trio are re-united on “Shake Yo Mama” co- written with Mathus. The song is inspired by Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips”.
Luther is a collector of songbooks. He states that the folk tradition is always evolving and that this is his life’s work, his songbook. It tells his story of “growing up in the modern day rural south among first generation Memphis rock ‘n rolling, song collecting, folk bohemians…”. Luther wants this to be as it should; rare and underground, not for everyone; but for those with an acquired taste. This is highly recommended.