New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers | Volume 1 | (Stony Plain)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
You’re right to be suspicious of that over-used, marketing term. But in this case, the contributors fit that somewhat pretentious description.
The music captured in this ad-hoc, extremely loose-knit recording was created in sessions spread out over a few days in November 2007. Most of the participants (singer/harpist Charlie Musselwhite, singer/songwriter Alvin Youngblood Hart, deep South garage rocker and Squirrel Nut Zipper founder Jimbo Mathus, and North Mississippi Allstars’ Cody and Luther Dickenson with their famous dad Jim) met while touring together. They became fast friends, taking that road energy back to the Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch Recording Studio in Coldwater, Mississippi for a shambolic, sometimes messy but undeniably heartfelt batch of live recordings with no overdubs and seemingly not a lot of rehearsal.
The players sat in a circle on the studio floor trading songs, mostly covers with a few originals. The easy-going proceedings were caught on tape but never released….until now.
The elder Dickinson’s death in 2009 might have helped keep these tapes accumulating dust on some back shelf of Zebra Ranch… or maybe no one thought it was worth releasing. Twelve years later Stony Plain label owner Holger Petersen heard the music and was ready to take the plunge.
Part one (a second album from the same gathering is due in early 2021) finds the guys trading lead vocals on material that ranges from a ragged but fun run through Jimi Hendrix’s “Stone Free” (Hart sings while Musselwhite blows searing harp) to Jim Dickinson shuffling in the saucy, sassy traditional blues of “Come On Down to My House” and Jimbo Mathus strutting with a frisky, slightly risqué “Shake It and Break It.” Hart displays his guitar skills on a down and dirty version of Charlie Patton’s “Pony Blues” and the elder Dickinson chugs into a rollicking “Let’s Work Together.” Musselwhite checks in with two originals, swinging through “Blues Why You Worry Me?” and a rowdy nearly seven minute train-time closing “Strange Land” with Luther whipping off a raw Mike Bloomfield inspired guitar solo on one of the disc’s most electrifying moments.
The exuberance these veteran musicians felt while recording with their friends is baked into every one of the 47 minutes. You can almost see the grins on their faces as they motor through these untidy blues, folk and rock classics without worrying about chart positions or even if the tapes will be released. Hearing them now is truly like being the proverbial fly on the wall, watching magic happen without any pressure, overdubs or producer calling the shots.
It’s a fun, raw and abundantly joyous meeting of the minds that any roots Americana loving listener will be thrilled to (finally) hear.
And part 2 should be just as inspirational.