Luther Dickinson: Rock ‘n Roll Blues

Luther Dickinson
Luther Dickinson
Rock ‘n Roll Blues
(New West)
3.5 out of 5 stars

Unplugged shouldn’t always imply laid back as Black Crowes/North Mississippi Allstars’ guitarist Luther Dickinson proves on his third solo release. While the title may lead some to think this is more of the amped up boogie and Southern rock favored by his other bands, it lives up to its name with a stripped down combination of Amy LaVere’s stand-up bass, thudding drums (without the distraction of cymbals) from Sharde Thomas and Lightnin’ Malcolm along with Dickinson’s acoustic guitar.

Swampy, basic rocking with strong undercurrents of folk, blues, country and some of the marching fife and drum backwoods music that Dickinson was raised on make this home studio recording feel authentic and lived in. The lyrics clearly emerged out of Dickinson’s deep Southern upbringing, from the rough and tumble early days in a “Bar Band,” being freed by punk rock in his pre-teens on the thumping opener “Vandalize,” his distaste of yardwork on the droll “Yard Man,” and the struggles of a rock band on the road that thankfully avoids the clichés of that well-worn subject in “Blood ‘n Guts.”

Dickinson doesn’t have much of a voice but it’s perfect for this unvarnished conglomeration of roots sounds. His talk-singing works particularly well on the introspective closer “Karmic Debt,” a tune that recalls decades old folk in its repeated melody line, chorus free multiple verses and story of a lonely sailor aching to return home to his true love.

In this climate of over produced, slicked up Americana, Dickinson’s dialed down approach is charming, rustic, uncluttered and delivered with the honesty of a guy who wouldn’t know how to do it any other way.