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Modern bluesman extraordinaire Luther Dickinson is always doing something interesting inside or outside of the recently reconfigured North Mississippi Allstars. He is one of the Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers, produced and played on the stellar LP by Sisters of the Strawberry Moon, Solstice (New West Records, 2019), and collaborated with Colin Linden on Amour (Stony Plain, 2019).

Evidenced by the way he elevated those projects, it is quite clear how much of a catalyst this older offspring of the late Jim Dickinson is. But, all that said, for MEM_MODS Vol. 1, Dickinson shares an equitable creative alliance with keyboardist Paul Taylor (New Memphis Colorways) and guitarist Steve Selvidge (The Hold Steady); evidence aplenty of their chemistry abounds on "Capricorn Alliance," the very first cut of the wholly instrumental dozen which comprise this collection.

Giving the lie to any notion that it is not possible to groove in space, their performance benefits from a pristine mix from Selvidge, subsequently mastered by Justin Perkins. The depth of sound allows the bass to function simultaneously as a fulcrum and a center of gravity, holding the center throughout, and thus allowing the other instrumentalists' parts to bounce around for the duration of the track without becoming aimless.

In contrast, "Feathers On A House Cat" is somewhat more conventionally funky. The musicians' interplay centers around fluttering clavinet textures over which breeze Mark Franklin's trumpet and Art Edmaiston's saxophone at the half-way point. The fluency of such interactions is all the more remarkable considering this forty minutes is a composite of recordings assembled remotely during the 2020 lockdown; "Congressional Tadpole," for instance, exudes a palpable delight from its tongue-in-cheek title right on through the lithe back-and-forth of which it consists.

Having waited some years prior to this get-together by proxy, Dickinson, Taylor and Selvidge are clearly having some fun. It is quite conceivable that their mutual delight is even greater than they anticipated, that is, if the jollity of "Harmolodica" is any indication. And the warm languour of "Midtown Miscommunication," like that of the penultimate cut "Perseveration Blues," gives the musicians and their listeners a quiet moment to contemplate that state of (well-) being.

"Sonoma Mashup" is something different, albeit not wholly so. There is some real muscle in play during this track and, as on its immediate successor, "Sparkle Skate," the trio adheres to the less-is-more ethic: roughly two to four minutes per track is plenty, and this one's playing time lies right in the middle of that general range of playing times.

Still, as on "Cootie Party," Dickinson, Selvidge, Taylor, Franklin and Edmaiston do not sound as if they are in any hurry, but rather luxuriate in what they are conjuring. It is easy to imagine them populating the same room, nodding and gesturing across the room to each other, offering non-stop mutual encouragement to dig ever deeper into the pocket, if only to then soar once they approach the bottom. The hint that MEM_MODS Vol. 1 may have its sequel(s) only adds to the joy of the experience.

Track Listing

Capricorn Catastrophe; Three On The Tree; Feathers On A House Cat; Congressional Tadpole; Harmolodica; Knotty Pine Kitchen; Midtown Miscommunication; Sonoma Smashup; Sparkle Skate; Cootie Party; Perseveration Blues; Horn Lake Hookup.


band / ensemble / orchestra
Luther Dickinson
guitar, electric
Additional Instrumentation

Steve Selvidge: P-Bass, Fender Rhodes, drum Machines; Luther Dickinson: Wurlitzer, Micro-Korg, Mellotron, Hofner Bass, ShoBr o,electric sitar, White Falcon Fuzz, lap steel; Paul Taylor: drums, percussion, Omnichord, J-Bass, fretless bass, washtub bass, guitar, synth pedals,soundscapes; Marc Franklin; trumpets, flugelhorn; Art Edmaiston; saxophones

Album information

Title: MEM_MODS Vol. 1 | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Peabody Records



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