Blues & Ballads: A Folksinger's Songbook, Vols. 1-2

Blues & Ballads: A Folksinger's Songbook, Vols. 1-2

by Luther DickinsonLuther Dickinson


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Blues & Ballads: A Folksinger's Songbook, Vols. 1-2 is the solo album Luther Dickinson has been hinting at for half a decade. In 2010, Home Sweet Home, a collection of old-time folk and blues standards, appeared by the South Memphis String Band (a collective of Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Jimbo Mathus). Two years later, its follow-up, Old Times There..., was one of three Dickinson-related albums released on the same day; the others were Hambone's Meditations (solo guitar instrumentals inspired by Jack Rose and the Takoma School) and Go on Now, You Can't Stay Here: Mississippi Folk Music, Vol. 3 (with the Wandering, an acoustic vocal group featuring Dickinson, Sharde Thomas, Amy LaVere, and Shannon McNally). Most of the aforementioned are present here, as are appearances by Mavis Staples, Jason Isbell, Will Sexton, JJ Grey, and others. Dickinson has been collecting songbooks and sheet music throughout his life. Though he wrote or co-wrote all 21 songs here, they have been inspired by tunes he learned and people and traditions he learned from. The production is intimate, stripped down. Voices and guitars are prominent, but drums, blues fife, and an upright piano and organ are heard here and there. All the songs were recorded live in the studio at various times, often in a single take. Fans of North Mississippi Allstars may recognize "Hurry Up Sunrise." It was worked up from an idea Otha Turner gave Dickinson. It was a blazing blues-rocker on Electric Blue Watermelon. Here, it's a sweet folk-blues with upright bass, electric slide guitar, and male-female duet vocals. There are several gospel blues tunes centering on mortality, passage, and transition. None are morbid. "Ain't No Grave," written just after the passage of Dickinson's dad, was cut in a single take with Staples, with his electric slide guitar the only accompaniment. Deeply moving, it is an exceptional moment. "Let It Roll" showcases Charles Hodges' B-3 as the testifying preacher instrument. Dickinson, LaVere, Thomas, and Lillie Mae Rische provide duet and chorus vocals. Thomas' blues fife make the acoustic country blues "My Leavin'" as tender as it is profound. "Bang Bang Lulu," co-written with his father, is a house-rent boogie with swinging fiddle, Beale Street piano, tub-thumping bass, maracas, and searing slide guitar. "Highwater (Soldier)," with its martial drumming and gutbucket bassline, is raw, uptempo 21st century Delta blues. The South Memphis String Band reunites on the Mathus/Dickinson number "Shake (Yo Mama)." Banjo, mandolin, and acoustic guitar deliver a hard-grooving tribute to Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips." Blues & Ballads: A Folksinger's Songbook, Vols. 1-2 is a musical autobiography. For Dickinson, blues and folk music are living traditions that continue to inform his geography, and his life and work within it. It's fortunate that he considered these songbooks worth sharing.

Product Details

Release Date: 02/05/2016
Label: New West Records
UPC: 0607396634620
catalogNumber: 6346
Rank: 59199

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Luther Dickinson   Primary Artist,Guitar,Mandolin,Piano,Vocals
Jim Crosthwait   Washboard
Charles Hodges   Piano,Hammond B3
Mavis Staples   Vocals
Alvin Youngblood Hart   Guitar,Vocals
Will Sexton   Acoustic Guitar,Drums
Jimbo Mathus   Banjo,Vocals
Jason Isbell   Slide Guitar
Shardé Thomas   Drums,Fife,Vocals
Amy LaVere   Vocals,Upright Bass
JJ Grey   Vocals
Lillie Mae Rische   Fiddle,Vocals
Dominic Davis   Upright Bass
Boo Mitchell   Conga
Shontelle Norman   Vocals
Sharisse Norman   Vocals
Brad Hodge   Guitar
Paul Taylor   Tuba (Bass)

Technical Credits

Lee Baker   Composer
James Luther Dickinson   Composer
Tom Bejgrowicz   Art Direction,Layout
Alan Nahigian   Illustrations
Jimbo Mathus   Composer
Kevin Houston   Engineer
Luther Dickinson   Composer,Producer
Bill Reynolds   Engineer
Mat Lejeune   Engineer
Boo Mitchell   Engineer
Otha Turner   Composer
Brad Hodge   Images
Nick Wurley   Engineer
Matt Ross-Sprang   Engineer

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