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Shake Hands with Shorty

music reviewmusic review  out of 4

Artist: North Mississippi All Stars
Genre: Blues
Release Date: May 2000

Review by LarryG
2½ stars out of 4

North Mississippi All Stars are young blues fans trying to help keep the form alive. Luckily, instead of respectfully and politely playing the music of their idols, they have a good time. All Stars leader Luther Dickinson and drummer Cody Dickinson are sons of producer/keyboard player Jim Dickinson, who's worked on countless great records for people like Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones in the late 60s and early 70s, The Replacements in the 80s and Bob Dylan(on Time Out Of Mind) in the 90s. The Dickinsons show a great knowledge of and love for classic delta blues. More importantly, they have the musical chops to properly share their love.

North Mississippi All Stars do best when the boys let loose. Shake Hands With Shorty's covers of songs by blues legend Mississippi Fred McDowell are especially good. Luther's slide guitar juices up Shake 'Em On Down, tirelessly swooping around Cody's fast, light beat. Luther isn't the greatest singer but his voice's cocky bravado works with the music. Drop Down Mama benefits from a loose Chris Chew bass line and solos by guest guitarists Alvin Youngblood Hart and Steve Selvidge. Drinkin' Muddy Water, with Luther's grungy slide guitar and its "if I can't be your kitten, I ain't be your dog" chorus, is down and dirty fun.

Shake Hands With Shorty also has a couple good cool, mellow songs: covers of the Mississippi Sheiks/Howlin' Wolf song Station Blues(Sitting On Top Of The World) and Furry Lewis' Casey Jones. The train song Casey Jones is fun, laid back Grateful Dead style blues folk.

If you're not a big blues fan, Shake Hands With Shorty might be a little too much traditional blues for you. The songs written by living blues legend R.L. Burnside, Goin' Down South and a medley of Po Black Maddie and Skinny Woman, are real sounding blues, but there aren't any surprises. The band gets bogged down in long instrumental passages that seem more like Allman Brothers and Hendrix retreads than inspired reexaminations of the blues. The All Stars version of Junior Kimbrough's All Night Long is good but it's up to you whether you can make it through its 16 jam filled minutes, which include a guitar line very much like that of the Allman's Jessica.

North Mississippi All Stars do a good job of making the music of their Mississippi blues predecessors accessible to people who may never have heard it before. They're skilled musicans and more authentic than young pretty boys Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shephard who sometimes seem to play the blues because it's cool and gives them a chance to show off their guitar skills and because they think they can sell the music to fans of guitar rock. Shake Hands With Shorty is good, genuine sounding music that's also fun.



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