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North Mississippi Allstars at El Club, 3 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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It’s been 20-plus years for North Mississippi Allstars, a group that started as “almost an art project,” according to singer-guitarist Luther Dickinson, who formed the band with younger brother Cody Dickinson in Hernando, Miss.

The two -- sons of the late record producer and artist Jim Dickinson (the Replacement, Big Star, Toots & the Maytals, Bob Dylan, Mudhoney and more) -- their mission was to bring to the mainstream the Mississippi Hill Country music they learned from masters such as R.L. Burnside, Otha Turner and Junior Kimbrough. They’ve done that to varying degrees over the course of a series of albums, including the upcoming “Prayer For Peace.”

The new effort, in fact, brings the Dickinsons back to what they started doing, albeit with some contemporary twists to thread the stylistic needle a little bit...

• Like 2013’s “World Boogie Is Coming,” “Prayer For Peace” is more raw and gutbucket than some of NMAS’ albums before that, which Luther Dickinson, who was also a member of the Black Crowes for a time, says was intentional. “For awhile we got caught up in everything and completely lost our way and spun out of orbit, and it took us forever to get back to what we’re supposed to do,” he explains by phone from New York. “Seasick Steve literally grabbed me by the shoulders and said, ‘Guys, I know where you’ve been and what you are. You have to keep that music alive and translate it to the younger kids. You have to keep it primitive’ -- that was the word. That got us back on track, and (‘Prayer For Peace’) is a further extension of that.”

• The contemporary touches on “Prayer For Peace,” however, includes Arpeggiators and select software, mostly employed by Cody -- subtly on most of the tracks but more aggressively on a remix of the title track, which closes the album. “Half the record we recorded with Duo, just us and a keyboard,” Luther Dickinson, 44, says. “Then (Cody) started making beats with Logic and Ableton, and now he’s full-on Ableton. And I’m all in. It sounds so rad -- bizarre, but really rad. I see so many cats of my generation struggle with this stuff, but you don’t want to be like the big band guy who hated swing, who hated cool jazz, who hated bebop and hated fusion. You can’t be that person that gets stuck in one thing. If you can’t evolve and adapt, you can’t survive. But you don’t have to lose what you are at your core, either.”

• Another key to making “Prayer For Peace” was recording while the group was on the road, dropping in at facilities in Brooklyn, St. Louis, Kansas City, New Orleans, Austin and Hernando, Miss., as well as the legendary Royal Studios in Memphis, which was the album’s home base. “It was very casual,” Dickinson reports. “Seventy-five percent of the vocals are live,” he says. “All the guitars and drums are live performances, on the floor. I think on tour the music creates a perpetual motion energy that you can’t recreate if you’re not on the road. You remember that picture of Zeppelin coming out of the airplane carrying all the tapes? That’s the way to do it if you’re a touring band, I think.”

If You Go:

• North Mississippi Allstars, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Rev Sekou featuring Danielle Nicole

• Wednesday, May 17. Doors open at 8 p.m.

• El Club, 4114 Vernor Ave., Detroit.

• Tickets are $20.

• Visit elclubdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.elclubdetroit.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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