New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers
Stony Plain Records
Luther Dickinson explains how this 2007 recording came to be. “The Dickinson crew doesn’t enjoy parties, but we dig potluck recording sessions… we invite a cast of characters to the session and ask each player to bring a couple of songs. Musicians take turns leading and accompanying, and before you know it, a record materializes.
“The New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers…was conceived in the back of a tour bus…Mavis Staples and Charlie Musselwhite had hit the road together with the North Mississippi Allstars as the house band… the tour forged lifelong friendships…and became a catalyst for our recording session…I explained Alvin Youngblood Hart’s mission to live life as a ‘Freedom Rocker”…Charlie pointed out there was a new moon…suddenly “New Moon Freedom Rockers” materialized…dad added “Jellyroll” after the recording session”.
So when Luther and Cody Dickinson sat down for a guitar jam at the Zebra Ranch Studios, with Musselwhite, Hart and Jimbo Mathis (from The Squirrel Nut Zippers), recording engineer Kevin Houston had the tape rolling. Their dad Memphis pianist and producer Jim Dickinson passed in the summer of 2009 so this album was shelved. Twelve years passed before Stony Plain founder Holger Petersen heard about the session and enthused he wanted to release it. Luther and Kevin worked on finishing the production.
So the Grammy and multiple Blues Music Award winner Musselwhite, harmonica and vocals; Hart, guitar, mandolin and vocals; Mathis, guitar and vocals; and Jim Dickinson, piano and vocals, are heard with Dickinson’s sons, session players Luther and Cody.
Musselwhite sings on two of his originals “Blues, Why You Worry Me?” and “Strange Land”. About the latter Musselwhite adds “I made up Strange Land when I was eighteen, and had gone to Chicago to find a job…I’d be walking the streets with the classifieds in my hand, filling out job applications, and not getting any positive feedback. I didn’t know a soul in Chicago, so I walked the city, I started making up this song about being a ‘stranger in a strange land’…when I recorded my first album, I put this song out there”. Musselwhite also sings lead on “K.C. Moan” first recorded in 1934 by the Memphis Jug Band. These are infectious versions. Musselwhite’s harp is heard throughout the recording.
The Grammy winning Hart sings on Charlie Patton’s “Pony Blues”; on a fabulous version of the Mississippi Sheiks’ “Stop and Listen Blues”, and on Jimi Hendrix’ “Stone Free”. Mathis takes the lead on his own “Night Time” with some fabulous drumming from Cody and Jim on piano; and on his arrangement of Patton’s “Shake It and Break It” first recorded in 1930. The legendary Jim Dickinson (who recorded both solo and as a session musician), piano and vocal, is absolutely wonderful on “Come On Down to My House”; and on Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together” recorded in 1962.
This revealing gem shows how Luther and Cody Dickinson acquired their adventurous approach to music; a legacy they inherited from their dad. Stay tuned for Volume 2 to be released in the spring of 2021.