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North Mississippi All Stars - Hernando

Songs of the South
Run Time: 40:29

The All-Stars have come a long way since their critically-acclaimed released Shake Hands with Shorty.   Shake Hands with Shorty was heavily influenced by the romp and stomp of the North Mississippi Hill Country blues sounds of Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. Since then they’ve taken odd turns into jam band rock, psychedelic, and the old sixties term of “freak out music.”

The band’s creative director/producer Jim Dickinson returns to the production helm on this aptly titled album (named after the Dickinson’s hometown in Mississippi) to head up his sons Cody & Luther on guitar and drums and bassist Chris Chew. If you long for sounds of the power trio Cream, the freak out of Spooky Tooth, the hard overdriven blues approach of Big Brother and the Holding Company and Jimi Hendrix than this album is for you.

With my tastes being more of a traditional, I felt the album is a little bit of a misnomer being filed under blues at times, and at other moments I see it as another pushing the blues’ limits possibly making it more accessible to my (younger) generation of fans on the jam band circuits.

On tracks like “Shake Yo (Mama)” and “Keep the Devil Down” you can hear the influence of the stomps of Burnside and Kimbrough laced with the Clapton-drenched fuzzy woman-toned guitar of the sixties. Then, Luther Dickinson who steps aside from the vocal mic on the tongue in cheek “I’d Love to Be a Hippy” with Chris Chew taking up the vocal reins, turns in some of the most blues-inspired guitar on the whole disc. Chew’s turn at the vocals also leaves one wondering why he doesn’t sing more throughout.

Luther, who now tours with the Black Crowes, turns in some of the most mature guitar playing I’ve heard from him yet. However, Luther’s father turns in some of the sloppiest, laid-back production work I’ve ever heard. The band sounds completely relaxed and borders on stumbling at times throughout the disc, especially when they get away from the blues and blues-rock that they are known for. The groove of the disc seems to fall apart a little half way through the disc, while the band tries to show off their diversity in influence.

If you’re a straight ahead blues fan, this disc probably won’t appeal to you because of the All Stars abilities to appeal to the rock crowd by submerging their blues roots into rock riffs and Hendrix-esque distortion. However, if you are of an on-the-fringe blues fan looking for a toss-back to the blues rock of those old Johnny & Edgar Winter records or the Cream days, this disc might be for you

Ben Cox is a Blues Songwriter, Musician, DJ and Journalist.

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