For more than 20 years,Luther and Cody Dickinson have made it their mission to keep alive the sound of the Mississippi hill country blues; however, they have never been strict traditionalists. As the North Mississippi Allstars,they’ve soaked their songs in raw, unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll while stirring in fatback funk, slippery soul and righteous gospel to reshape and push the blues into contemporary relevance. Their red-hot stew of roots music — and ferocious live shows —have attracted ardent fans around the globe. Critics have been generous with their praise too. Rolling Stone’s David Fricke proclaimed that “deep roots, improvising valor and live-Cream brawn come easily” to the band, while the Oxford American credits them as having “saved and revitalized southern rock.”
The North Mississippi Allstars’ latest effort, Blue Dances Music (due out on March 9, 2018), might be their boldest effort to date. The sonically experimental EP introduces loops and programming to live recordings of tracks from their most recent album, Prayer for Peace, creating, in Cody Dickinson’s words, “an opportunity to explore this musical landscape with full realization.”
This project, which Cody describes as something that was just meant to be, began when their song“Prayer for Peace” was recorded by the Blind Boys of Alabama. A copy of it got to the Dickinsons, who happened to be writing beats fused with gospel chord changes and blues rhythms. When they matched this music with the Blind Boys’ a cappella singing, it all clicked and BDM was born. This melding of rural blues and dance rhythms actually isn’t the big sonic leap you might think because Hill Country Blues has always been one-chord, hypnotic dance music.
Besides “Prayer For Peace,” the EP holds reimagined versions of “Miss Maybelle,” “Run Red Rooster,” and the Royal Remix of “Need To Be Free,” featuring Sharde Thomas, Rev Sekou, Al Kapone, Frayser Boy and DJ Spanish Fly. Blues Dance Music takes listeners on a journey through gospel, blues and rock music that has been fused with dance hall beats.
The size and scope of Blues Dance Music is something Luther and Cody are extremely proud of. The album, confides Cody, “took on a life of its own — I think you can hear the excitement of discovery in the music.”
The Dickinsons also are excited because this spring they will get to do one of the things that they love the best: play live. Starting in early April, North Mississippi Allstars will embark on a six-week tour. On April 5, they will kick things off in St. Louis, followed by shows in Kansas City and Bloomington, IL; however, most of their time will be spent traipsing around their old stomping grounds in southeastern America. Stops will include appearances at the Savannah Music Festival and Merlefest, as well as a trip north for a show in Asbury Park, N.J. You can find the complete tour itinerary below. Given the Dickinsons’ affection for live performances, you can bet these won’t be the only stages that they’ll be playing on this year.