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
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.