North Mississippi Allstars

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North Mississippi Allstars see Dickinson brothers reunite in honor of their dad

:: North Mississippi Allstars ::
:: Copper Country Festival (Copper Mountain) :: September 3 ::
:: Rancho del Gumbo Festival (Bond) ::
:: September 23 and 24 ::

By Fallon Anderson

 

More than four years ago, Luther Dickinson took a new job. Career-wise it was a serious move and a great fit, but in taking that post, he had to step away from, or at least back-burner his beloved North Mississippi Allstars, a band that he, his brother Cody and longtime friend Chris Chew started in the mid-nineties.

The new job, as the lead guitarist for The Black Crowes, took Dickinson on world tours and saw him playing on Warpaint, the Crowes’ most successfully charting album since 1992’s Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.

But, due to the Crowes’ extensive touring schedule, Dickinson was only able to occasionally get together with his old band to play. During that time, Cody started his own group Hill Country Revue, which, or course, is also the name of a North Mississippi Allstars album.

Following a six-night run in December of last year at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, The Black Crowes once again entered hiatus status (except for nine shows that they played in Europe this summer, including final shows in Amsterdam).

So with the Crowes officially shelved for the time being, Luther Dickinson has wasted no time getting back with his brother and friend. In fact, even before The Black Crowes took a break, Luther, Cody and Chew had already started working on their newest album  Keys To The Kingdom.

In fact, they had started writing the material a year earlier when the Dickinson brothers’ father Jim, the famed musician and producer, passed away.

“He used to say, ‘Play every note like it’s your last, because one of them will be,’” said Luther Dickinson, quoting his father, during a recent interview with The Marquee. “Music was such a deep part of our relationship with our father, we grew up playing together and were so influenced by the music he worked on. [Keys to the Kingdom] is really honest and open.”

While much of the material covers what Luther refers to as “heavy topics,” he views the album as “celebratory, with an old-fashioned sound.”

Dickinson said that right before his father passed away, he and his brother were doing their own things, and his dad made them promise that they would play together again. “‘You’re stronger together than you ever will be apart,’” Dickinson said his dad told him. “So we promised him, of course, that we would play together and when we joined to record Keys to the Kingdom we definitely felt the power coming from ourselves and from him.”

That power lead Dickinson to write some songs in a way he had never quite before done. “Sometimes I would wake up and the whole song would just come out,” he said. “Like ‘Ain’t No Grave’ — one of the deeper songs on the album — the whole song just spilled out of me.”

The album also handles a rearrangement of the song “The Meeting,” with Melvis Staples. Dickinson said that the band had recorded the song several times before, but it never made it onto an album. He also pointed out that when he and Staples met in Chicago to record her part of the song, that she nailed it in one take.

The album, which also features appearances by legends Ry Cooder, Spooner Oldham, Motown Funk Brother Jack Ashford, and others, not surprisingly, was recorded at the Dickinson family’s studio The Zebra Ranch and carries a homage in the album credits that reads, “Produced for Jim Dickinson.”

Though the album is a step forward for the band and the brothers’ healing process, the music is also still very indicative of what fans have come to expect from the group.

“It’s really cool. We do have a unique thing. It’s an odd sound that we make,” Dickinson said. “[It’s] Mississippi rock and roll — Mississippi roots music with rock and roll volume.”

He continued, “More than anything growing up, I wanted to be a guitar player and I love singing and I love writing songs and it all feels so good.  The guitar is what carries me. It’s like the angel and devil on your shoulders. It’s like, indulge in your own musical whims or stay true to your roots. The roots have to grow and evolve to survive, so there’s growing pains. There’s been times where my vision or direction gets diluted and that’s just natural and I write new songs or go off in some strange direction, but it keeps pulling me back. Our music is from home and the music has become our home away from home,” said Dickinson. “It all comes out unconsciously.”

The band has just launched a massive tour that will bring them through Colorado in September as well as in November.

 

:: North Mississippi Allstars ::

:: Copper Country Festival (Copper Mountain) :: September 3 ::

:: Rancho del Gumbo Festival (Bond) ::

:: September 23 and 24 ::

 

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