Jiro Schneider In recent years, Hanson have used their celebrity to bring…
- Posted on Jan 28th 2011 5:00PM by Mike Ayers
So it's no surprise that Luther and Cody Dickinson, sons of Jim and two-thirds of the North Mississippi Allstars, would want to pay homage to their father, who died in August 2009 due to complication surrounding heart surgery, on their new album 'Keys to the Kingdom.' "A majority of this record is about our Dad," guitarist Luther tells Spinner. "They all ended up being heavy."
Over the years, the North Mississippi Allstars have lent their talents to a variety of different projects. Luther has been actively playing and touring with the Black Crowes and, years ago, formed the Word, a hyper-rock gospel band with John Medeski and Robert Randolph. But for 'Kingdom' they leaned on their father's old friends to help them get through the recordings as well as add their classic touches.
"The song 'Ain't No Grave,' that's just a brutally honest song about my father's passing and my daughter being born," Luther explains. "I wrote that really fast but I couldn't get past the lyrics and the melody. I tried overdubbing everything on it. I felt like a songwriter stuck with a pen -- I was too close to it and needed a new set of ears. I called Ry [Cooder] -- we'd been in touch with my Dad was sick -- and he said 'of course I'll play on it.' I sent it to him and his engineer said it took him all of five minutes."
Other veterans from Jim Dickinson's era included Spooner Oldham and Mavis Staples, who lends her vocals to 'The Meeting,' a fast-paced gospel ode. "That song was a combination of the early Staple Singers stuff and old-timey gospel blues recordings," Luther says. "We only used a couple of mics, so it sounded old fashion. Mavis was a shoe in."
Oldham lends his piano talents throughout the record, for which Luther recorded him at Muscle Shoals in a quick afternoon session. "Spooner was one of [our father's] favorite keyboard players," he says.
Throughout their career, the North Mississippi Allstars have been more aligned with a more boogie-stomp sound that some could say diluted the words behind their songs. Perceptions could certainly change with 'Kingdom' -- it's brimming with emotion in the lyrics and instrumentation, which should breathe new life into the Allstars' world.
'Keys to the Kingdom' is out Feb. 1 on the band's own label, Songs of the South.