Rollicking, raw and teeming with palpable punk energy one minute, laid back and burning with the tranquil beauty of a southern sunset the next, Luther Dickinson’s new solo album, Rock ‘n Roll Blues, will be released March 18 on New West Records. Made with just acoustic guitar, vocals, stand up bass and drums, the album of acoustic punk country blues offers a side of Luther seldom seen before. From the propulsive beat and unbridled sound of opener “Vandalize” to the rambunctious acoustic strut and barbed chorus hook of “Bar Band,” which relives Luther’s dues-paying youth playing battles of the band and plastering Memphis with concert flyers to “Blood ‘n Guts,” chronicling the transience of a life spent in a van driving from one gig to the next, the steady drums marking the miles along some deserted highway, it’s clear this is a unique chapter in the acclaimed Southern musician’s songbook.
Pure Volume is premiering “Vandalize,” a song Luther first wrote as a teenager after seeing his childhood favorite band Black Flag with his dad, the late great producer and musician Jim Dickinson (Big Star, The Replacements, Ry Cooder), at a record store in Memphis. Luther recounts the formative show in the third verse: “There were no all age shows in my day/ For free and instrumental was how they played/ In a record store, free for the kids/ I got so excited, had to vandalize.”
Luther is best known as the lead guitarist and vocalist for boogie and blues-rock innovators North Mississippi Allstars and has recorded with an amazing array of musicians throughout his impressive career including Robert Plant, Levon Helm, Beck, Ry Cooder, Mavis Staples, Patty Griffin, John Hiatt, Lucero, Jon Spencer among others. Since he first made his recording debut at 14 playing guitar on The Replacement’s Pleased To Meet Me, he has become widely known both as a talented go-to musician and producer with five Grammy nominations to prove it.
Recorded at Zebra Ranch, the Dickinson family home studio in Mississippi, Rock ‘n Roll Blues sees Luther entering a new phase of his storied musical career. More informed by a youth spent listening to punk and rock than the blues-rock of his revered North Mississippi All Stars, the record, although not punk in sound, is in spirit and its DIY ethos. Essentially an autobiography set to music, the 10-track LP traces Luther’s journey from excitable teen growing up in rural Mississippi to tour-van vet and showcases his acutely observant songwriting and superb guitar playing.
More in line with his South Memphis String Band records or his two Grammy-nominated solo albums
than with the North Mississippi Allstars, Rock ‘n Roll Blues as Luther puts it is “folk music with juke-joint drums and lots of harmonies,” which means the rhythm section has to be both propulsive and supple, confident yet restrained. According to Luther, these songs finally came alive when he brought in bass player Amy LaVere and drummer Sharde Thomas. LaVere is a celebrated Memphis actress/singer-songwriter with three excellent albums under her name, two of which were produced by Jim Dickinson. Her upcoming fourth album was produced by Luther. Thomas is the granddaughter of the late great blues fife player Otha Turner (that’s his cane fife she’s playing on “Mojo, Mojo”).
Luther Dickinson Biography
Luther Dickinson was born in western Tennessee to parents Mary Dickinson and famed Memphis producer and musician Jim Dickinson. The family moved to the north Mississippi hill country in 1985, where Luther and his brother Cody grew up going to Jr Kimbrough’s juke joint and Otha Turner’s fife-n-drum goat BBQ picnics.
He and his brother, Cody, started the North Mississippi Allstars in 1996 playing Hill Country Blues inspired “Mississippi RocknRoll.” RL Burnside hired him to go on the road in 1997 and he has since toured all over the world from Russia to Japan to Australia.
Luther made his recording debut at age 14. He went on to record with the Replacements, Mojo Nixon, Beck, Toy Caldwell, Billy Lee Riley, Lucero, John Hiatt, Mavis Staples, Jon Spencer, Ry Cooder, Lucinda Williams, Spooner Oldham, Levon Helm, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, George Porter, and a host of others. In the mid 1990s, Luther produced Otha Turner’s albums Senegal to Senatobia and Everybody Hollerin’ Goat (named one of the top ten blues records of the 90s by Rolling Stone).
In 2011, as a member of the Americana Music Award house band Luther backed up Robert Plant, Patty Griffin, Gregg Allman, Amos Lee, Justin Townes Earle and many others.
As a member of the North Mississippi Allstars, South Memphis String Band and The Word, Luther has made himself widely known as both a talented musician and as a producer with four Grammy nominations to prove it- three in the contemporary blues catagory and one in traditional folk.