North Mississippi Allstars

October 20, 2005

It’s tough to give the blues a modern twist without destroying its soul, but with Electric Blue Watermelon, the North Mississippi Allstars have cracked the code. With one foot firmly planted in his native Mississippi hill country and the other in the world of amped-up, psychedelic rock, guitarist Luther Dickinson plays slide with the subtlety of Fred McDowell and the fire of Duane Allman. Backed by his brother Cody on drums and bassist Chris Chew, Dickinson moves easily between rattling resonator and squalling electric tones, channeling jam-band attitude through primal Bo Diddley beats and juke-joint riffs. Produced by Memphis legend Jim Dickinson—the brothers’ dad—the album has an unvarnished sound that’s

old-school, yet not self-consciously retro. Guest appearances by Lucinda Williams, pedal steeler Robert Randolph, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band add variety to the swampy mix of classics (“Deep Blue Sea” and “Mississippi Bollweevil”) and band originals. ATO. —Andy Ellis

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