Like father, like son. Thatâ€™s the backdrop of this weekâ€™s Memphis/Mississippi leaning Ear Bliss which focuses on recent releases from the late Jim Dickinson and a solo outing from his son Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi All-Stars fame. Letâ€™s dig in.
James Luther Dickinson & North Mississippi Allstars
Iâ€™m Just Dead, Iâ€™m Not Gone
Memphis International Records
Iâ€™m Just Dead, Iâ€™m Not Gone is how part of the epitaph read for the late Memphis music raconteur James Luther Dickinson. Far from the household name to your average music fan, when he passed unexpectedly in the summer of 2009 the Memphis scene lost an irreplaceable part of its heart and soul. Yet, Jim Dickinson was so much more than just a Memphis guy. Take a look at his discography. I printed a copy a few years back for a radio show special I was doing and it ran some 30-plus pages with credits ranging from working with legends like Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin to producing such rock demigods as Big Star and The Replacements and befriending and working with such blues forefathers as Furry Lewis and Sleep John Estes and fathering and nurturing his two sons whoâ€™ve gone on to find fame and fortune as the North Mississippi All-Stars. Dickinsonâ€™s own solo career was a bit odd and most likely due to being so busy and never having time to focus on it. The prime example was it being 20 years between his first and second solo albums. It was over the final five years of his life that he finally found or made time to do his own thing releasing four excellent roots-leaning albums from 2003-2009 and one spoken word record. Dickinson was downright prolific and what was most special about these records was his choice of songs. They were all over the map, but with a heavy nod to Memphis. The newly released live album Iâ€™m Just Dead, Iâ€™m Not Gone is a fitting posthumous affair. It is Dickinson on his home turf (The Daisy Theater in Memphis) with his sons Luther and Cody in the backing band and getting loud and raucous in song to deliver his â€śWorld Boogie is comingâ€ť musical message. While by no means essential, the spirit and soul of Iâ€™m Just Dead, Iâ€™m Not Gone is undeniable and those qualities alone make it a great listen.
Songs of the South Records
Growing up the oldest son of Jim Dickinson, avoiding music would have been pretty tough for Luther Dickinson. He succumbed at an early age soaking in the many travails of his well-traveled dad. The fact the fertile North Mississippi hill country was home afforded Luther exposure to a plethora of authentic blues types from the fife and drum stylings of Otha Turner to the juke joint blues of Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. To put it lightly, it was not your usual upbringing. Along with younger brother Cody, in 1996 Luther formed the North Mississippi All-Stars. Roots music is the easy description as the band drew from all corners of its Southern upbringing. Along the way Luther established himself as an exceptional guitarist taking even more high profile as of late with his NMA â€śhiatusâ€ť role with the Black Crowes. While all that was going on, he had quietly been working on a solo guitar record drawing from acoustic heroes like John Fahey and Jack Rose. The end result is Hamboneâ€™s Meditations, an instrumental album which for Fahey fans will immediately recall the late legend. Utilizing only acoustic guitar and dobro, the sans-vocals album is a meditation of deep rooted guitar picking with Dickinson displaying an oft-times narcotic type prowess seldom seen in the NMA or Black Crowes settings. The soil of his upbringing, that being country blues, is at the foundation of Hamboneâ€™s Meditations, but there are also experimental acoustic forays equally as captivating. Recommended.
Saturday night sees Kate Taylor (daughter of James) lay stakes at The Knickerbocker CafĂ© (35 Railroad Ave., Westerly) for an evening of roots and Americana beginning at 9 p.m.
Itâ€™s acoustic open mic night this Sunday at The Wood River Inn (1193 Main St., Richmond) kicking out the bluegrass starting at 6.
Grammy award winning band Mumford & Sons are playing just selected dates this summer. One of those happens to be this Monday evening in Providence where they headline at the Providence Performing Arts Center (220 Weybosset Street). Dawes is in the opening slot for what promises to be a great night of music.
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 to 9 p.m. on WRIU-FM 90.3.)