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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 02/ 1/2011

Album review: North Mississippi Allstars, "Keys to the Kingdom"

By Bill Friskics-Warren

north mississippi allstarsThe influence of Jim Dickinson is heard throughout the new album by North Mississippi Allstars. (Courtesy of the band)

The North Mississippi Allstars didn't begin work on their new album until after the death of Jim Dickinson, the father of the group's co-founders, Luther and Cody Dickinson, but they credited him with producing the record anyway. It's an unusual gesture, but after just a single listen to this blues-steeped song cycle, it's obvious why they did. The spirit of the elder Dickinson, whose resume as a producer and musician includes sessions by Aretha Franklin, Big Star and the Rolling Stones, so thoroughly haunts the record that he might as well have overseen its creation.

Each of the album's 12 tracks is in some way a meditation on the passing of the Dickinsons' influential and colorful father. "This A'Way," the Stonesy vamp that kicks things off, rages in disbelief that he is no longer around. Driven by an unflagging drumbeat, "New Orleans Walkin' Dead" celebrates a spirit that can't be kept down, while "Jellyrollin' All Over Heaven," the jaunty gospel-blues that closes the album, takes comfort in the hope of reunion beyond the grave.

A number of guests appear on the record, including Mavis Staples and Ry Cooder - a longtime friend and collaborator of Jim Dickinson's - whose bittersweet bottleneck guitar work suffuses "Ain't No Grave" with added poignancy. There's everything from shaggy power pop to ramshackle punk here, even a Mississippi hill country adaptation of Bob Dylan's "Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again," inspired, as the band's bio explains, by a suggestion the elder Dickinson made shortly before he died.

Recommended tracks: "Ain't No Grave," "New Orleans Walkin' Dead," "Jellyrollin' All Over Heaven"

By Bill Friskics-Warren  | February 1, 2011; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags:  North Mississippi Allstars  
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