:: North Mississippi Allstars :: Bluebird Theatre :: February 14 :: :: Fox Theatre :: February 15 and 16 ::
By Karen Schneider
It’s been a busy and fun-filled eleven years for the North Mississippi Allstars, and 2008 marks yet another new beginning for the band. January will kick off their Keep The Devil Down Tour, coinciding with the release of their new album, Hernando on January 22.
Hernando marks a new direction for the band. In contrast to 2005’s star-studded Electric Blue Watermelon, a tribute to their ‘hill country blues’ roots; Hernando is a return to the southern blues rock that the members of the Allstars grew up on and have done wonders to pay homage to throughout their career.
“I’m real proud of it. I think it’s a raw and honest record,” Luther Dickinson told The Marquee in a recent interview.
“I think it’s the best we’ve ever done capturing what we do live. We didn’t get caught up in any studio trickery, or any fancy shenanigans. We just went in there, set up and played,” he said.
Hernando is named after the band’s hometown, where guitarist/vocalist Luther, his brother, drummer/keyboard/washboard player Cody, and longtime friend, bassist Chris Chew, met.
“In a way, I think it’s our most standalone record for just what we do. The three of us grew up in Hernando, it’s our home base,” Luther said.
Hernando is also the first release from Sounds of the South Records, the band’s own label.
“We signed a deal in ‘99, it expired in ’06 and it just seemed like the right thing to do. We got a cool distribution deal and it just all came together,” Dickinson said. “The great thing is that we retain ownership of all of our music. And that really feels good.”
Although the band chose a new direction with Hernando, they still managed to keep their roots close to home. The album was produced by one of the band’s biggest influences, Jim Dickinson, proud father of Luther and Cody, and 2007 recipient of the Americana Music Association’s lifetime achievement award for a producer/engineer. The band spent much of September, 2007 recording at Zebra Ranch Studio, a.k.a. “The Barn” on Jim Dickinson’s property.
“What was different about this experience is that usually we demo-up songs and record them, but this time we demoed up way too many songs, we demoed up like, 22 songs and then we picked from them,” Luther said. “That was the really cool thing, we got a lot of songs ready and then we shaped and formed the record before we even went in to do it for real. That was really helpful. It enabled us to work a lot faster and be more concise.”
The band recently wrapped up a tour backing Mavis Staples and Charlie Musselwhite. They also managed to squeeze in a few dates with The Word (North Mississippi, Robert Randolph, and John Medeski).
They also just recorded an album with Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jimbo Mathis, Charlie Musselwhite, and Jim Dickinson, who all together are called the New Moon Jellyroll Freedom Rockers.
“We cut twenty-some-odd songs in like, three days. So we’re going to put that out there at some point,” Dickinson said. And, if they weren’t busy enough, Luther has also recently joined forces with The Black Crowes.
It was recently announced that Dickinson has taken over the position of producer/guitarist Paul Stacey, whose position with the Crowes was always intended to be a temporary fix after the departure of long-time Crowes axe slinger Marc Ford.
Dickinson will be playing a full tour with the Crowes starting in March, marking the release of The Crowe’s first record in seven years, Warpaint.
Dickinson has said that while he is, indeed, a full-time member of the Black Crowes, that it does not mean the end of the Allstars, by any stretch. In fact, a spokesperson for the band said, “He’ll just be juggling.”
The pairing is actually not such a surprise. The Crowes and Allstars have all known each other for a long time, and after Dickinson and Rich Robinson collaborated on a side project, Circle Sound, the idea of making Dickinson a “full fledged” Crowe just kind of fell into place.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” Dickinson said. “It’s all part of the same thing to me, really.”
:: North Mississippi Allstars ::
:: Bluebird Theatre :: February 14 ::
:: Fox Theatre :: February 15 and 16 ::
Recommended if you like:
• The Black Crowes
• Widespread Panic
• Robert Randolph and the Family Band