Recording information: Arlyn Studios; Royal Studios; Zebra Ranch Studios.
Photographers: Bob Bayer; Bill Steber; Wyatt McSpadden; Candice Kola.
Although they have mixed elements of hip-hop and alternative rock into their repertoire, the North Mississippi Allstars are really at their best when they blow out the rust on the kind of Mississippi folk-blues numbers they learned firsthand from the likes of R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and Othar Turner. Essentially a swampy, rootsy power blues duo comprised of brothers Luther Dickinson (guitar, slide guitar, vocals) and Cody Dickinson (drums), the sons of legendary Memphis producer and musician Jim Dickinson, the Allstars have always had one foot in the traditional cane and drum bands of North Mississippi, another in the electric modal drone version of the blues practiced at local juke joints and house parties, and yet another in the grand rock power stomp style of Led Zeppelin. It all added up to a powerfully original and yet somehow traditional-sounding version of 21st century blues-rock that had them sounding like no other band. After five albums of such fare, each a ragged, back-porch, Deep South boogie fest, the brothers went on hiatus in 2009 after the death of their father. When they came back together and re-entered the studio, they took one of Jim Dickinson's favorite blessings, "world boogie is coming," as a project title, and began laying down tracks in a loose, ambient manner, leaving in bits of background conversation, footsteps, wind, rain, whatever sounds happened, then flew in archival field recordings of Turner and Burnside and built from them, aided by friends and fellow musicians Lightnin' Malcolm, Duwayne Burnside and Garry Burnside (R.L.'s sons), Kenny Brown, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Shard Thomas (Turner's granddaughter), Chris Chew, Sid Selvidge and Steve Selvidge, Robert Plant (on harmonica), and others. The end result is NMA's masterpiece, each track a fascinating blend of old and new, a seamless, chugging look at Mississippi country-folk-boogie, with Luther's jagged, commanding guitar riffs and haunting slide runs sewing everything together, while Cody's powerful, thundering drums march everything across the landscape. The version of the traditional blues "Rollin 'n Tumblin" here is a pure sonic blast that straddles two centuries at once, while "Boogie" sounds like a giant electric marching band stomping across the land. NMA's version of Junior Kimbrough's "Meet Me in the City" here almost sounds like power pop, but filtered through a rustic moonshine filter. Every track here is like that, roaring into the 21st century sounding big, urgent, and huge, but so grounded in the local folk-blues tradition that each track seems to carry imprinted DNA that says boogie all over it. World boogie is coming? It's here, and these guys boogie like the world has no choice but to surrender to the fact. ~ Steve Leggett