Reviews and Suggestions

Scott’s Reviews: North Mississippi All-Stars – Hernando

hernando.jpgNorth Mississippi All-StarsHernando
Sounds of the South Records

Taking Southern Rock to a new level, The North Mississippi All-Stars are a band who have been making great records and toiling away on the festival circuit for years now gaining more and more fans with every release and every appearance. By taking a marginalized form of rock music and making it relevant again, the All-Stars deserve all the credit in the world. Yes, Virginia, Hootie is not responsible for bringing the South back into prominence for being a great breeding ground for some of the best rock acts – the All-Stars are the reason. Of course, as hokey as some think the Southern Rock sub-genre is, you can’t fake it. You have to actually come from the South and have a great pedigree. Luckily, the All-Stars have it.

The All-Stars had it’s genesis from a punk group called DDT which was formed in the early ’90’s. Luther and Cody Dickinson (sons of the legendary keyboardist and producer Jim Dickinson), like seemingly all youthful musicians, seemingly had to experiment with playing grinding rock and roll as fast and as violent as they could possibly play it and started the blazing thrashy punk band. Though they won raves from the local punk community, they eventually realized their real love was in the country blues, R&B and soul native to the area they grew up in. The music their daddy loved so much that he took it, filtered it through his own sensibilities and helped everyone from Joe Cocker to the Rolling Stones create bodies of work envied by every working band today and, in the process, created his own legend for his sons to try to live up to. For The All-Stars, Luther (guitar, mandolin, vocals) and Cody (drums, samples), all’s okay because as large as their father’s legend looms, they are his lasting legacy and the ones most likely to make their father a household name. Which shouldn’t be too hard as where bands like The Black Crowes are mere dilettantes when it comes to the true origins of Southern Rock, the All-Stars have soaked up the past and added their own spin to create music with a depth those old Crowes couldn’t begin to figure out. With the All-Stars, not only do you get a huge helping of rock, but you also get blues, rockabilly, R&B and gospel elements are combined into a wonderfully thick, murky stew where all of these ingredients blend and become parts of each other as they combine to create one great tasty sound!

A sound they only happily share on the band’s new CD.

On this new CD by the All-Stars, they’ve stripped the band down a little, content to let things rawk as a power trio. But, aside from a personnel defection or two, not much has really changed for the band, which has it’s good and bad points. The ragged looseness that makes their albums so fun is still there, sometimes so evident you’re never sure if the band will make it to the next verse without falling down. Amazingly, they make it, and manage to hold it all together song after song. While music fans not into the blues may struggle with it, to me it makes the album seem like a party and doesn’t smack so much of the obvious effort it seems to take most bands to craft a good album. While I have always been a fan of bands who take the time to write good songs and make sure the album sounds good from a production standpoint, there’s always something special about a band who makes it sound easy to some great rockers and The All-Stars manage to inject all of their music with the same joyful abandon. Their father/mentor Jim Dickinson is also on board producing the album and it really sounds dirty, grungy and great! While maybe not their best record, all of their CDs are excellent and all of the band’s albums have the same All-Star sound, which is evident no matter what genre they decide to take on. Some may call it same-y but since I like it, I’ll call it singular and unique, which just about sums it up.

Fans of old fashioned greasy rock and roll will love this CD as the bands revs it up right out of the gate and doesn’t stop for a second. Even though their albums pretty much mine the same territory, no one can amp it up quite like the All-Stars. Even the big Southern Rock bands in their heyday of the mid-’70’s couldn’t tear it up the way the North Mississippi All-Stars are doing right now. Some say ‘the South’s gonna do it again’ but I say the North Mississippi All-Stars have been doing already, and doing it damn good, if I do say so myself. And I do!

Scott Homewood