Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: North Mississippi Allstars, Hernando

North Mississippi Allstars (NMA) are a trio composed of brothers Luther (guitar, vocals) and Cody Dickinson (drums, vocals) along with Chris Chew (bass, vocals).  They are hernandoproduced by the brother’s father Jim Dickinson who has produced artists as diverse as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Big Star and the Replacements, and who was a prominent session guitar player in the 1960s an ’70s playing with Aretha Franklin, Arlo Guthrie, the Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers) and The Flamin’ Groovies among many others.  Family affairs in the pop music business can be a decidedly mixed bag ranging from the insipid (the Partridge Family), through the perverse and bizarrre (the Jacksons), to the cantankerous (Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis or Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks).  Families can also produce some inspired partnerships like the Everly Brothers and the Pointer Sisters.  Happily the Dickinson family falls among the latter group.

NMA play blues rock that is heavily indebted to the northern Mississippi style of blues that is usually associated with R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Mississippi Fred McDowell.  Their best work is gritty, dirty and down.  They are all much better than average musicians who play very well together and provide a much fuller sound than you might expect from a blues trio.  In light of Luther Dickinson’s forthcoming recorded debut as the Black Crowes new guitarist (“Warpaint” is scheduled for release next week as I write this) I keep wanting to point out what a fine guitar player he is but listening to “Hernando” it’s apparent that Cody Dickinson and Chris Chew are equally talented.  This is a very good band.

NMA have consistenly put out solid blues rock albums since their Grammy nominated and W.C. Handy Award winning debut “Shake Hands with Shorty” in 2000.  “Hernando”, named for the town where they live in Mississippi, is no exception.  It’s also not all that much different from their previous work.  By and large they forgo the fife and drum style of Mississippi blues they have played so well in the past.  Chris Chew takes lead vocal on a striking version of Champion Jack Dupree’s “I’d Love to be a Hippy” but otherwise most of the tunes here would have fit equally well on any of their prior albums.  With musicians this good who play this well together a strong argument can be made that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  I haven’t listened to NMA much for a couple of years and I thoroughly enjoyed returning to them with “Hernando”.  However, listeners who have been staying with the band since their debut may find “Hernando” less interesting simply because it stays well within the parameters the band has staked out for itself.


03/01/2008 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews

1 Comment »

  1. […] Dickenson, his brother Cody (drums) and Chris Chew (bass) as evidenced on NMA’s recent “Hernando” is even tighter.  Which isn’t surprising, really, as NMA has been playing together […]

    Pingback by Review: The Black Crowes, Warpaint « Tuned In To Music | 03/17/2008 | Reply

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