Blues swap

North Mississippi All-Stars share their blues with friends

Palace (529 Bloor West), Monday (March
11). $12. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN

at this very moment, luther andboogie brother Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi All-Stars are thinking about another side project, if not recording it.Making music with friends is how they began, and that’s still the essence of what they do. Notions of branding to establish a unique group identity may concern their label reps, but southern groove guru Jim Dickinson didn’t raise any marketing executives.

From the time Luther and Cody were old enough to hold a guitar and beat out a rhythm with sticks, they’ve been jamming on the streets of Memphis with bluesmen 60 years their senior.

It’s only natural that they’d continue to pursue collaborations right up to today. In fact, it’s what they do best.

Don’t think for a second that the North Mississippi All-Stars need any help to tear up a club, but add a catalyst to the mix — say, sacred steel virtuoso Robert Randolph, the star of the Word (Ropeadope) project — and stand back for some real fireworks.

“While we were on tour with Medeski, Martin and Wood,” recalls Luther Dickinson over the phone from Birmingham, Alabama, “we were all listening to this sacred steel CD on Arhoolie and decided right then to make a gospel album. Robert’s playing on it was just smokin’. As it happened, we had a mutual friend in New York, so we asked Robert to share a bill at the Bowery Ballroom, and he blew us away. We brought him into the studio, and the whole Word thing took about four days to record. It started out gospel, but by the time we were through it was pretty well polluted.”

Many more collaborations involving the Dickinson brothers are yet to surface, notably the numerous sessions they’ve cut with Jon Spencer.

“In the last two years, we’ve cut, like, 35 songs with Jon. It’s more straight-ahead blues-punk kinda stuff. People are always asking, “How can you go from playing rock and roll with Jon Spencer to doing a gospel record with Robert Randolph?’ It’s simple, really. We just like playing with our friends. If we can schedule it, we’ll do it.”

Between cutting records with Squirrel Nut Zipper Jimbo Mathus and his Night Owl Society, fife maestro Othar Turner and R.L. Burnside’s sons as the Burnside Exploration, they’ve also finished working with their father on the long-overdue follow-up to his Dixie Fried solo debut from 72.

“After nine years of recording on and off, it’s finally done. It’s called Free Beer Tomorrow and it should be out next year sometime. Right now my dad is producing a record with T-Model Ford and Spam. Jim Dickinson and Fat Possum have joined forces — how great is that?”

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