Songs of the South
BluesWax Rating: 9
The Solo Fingerpicking of Luther Dickinson
Luther Dickinson has played with so many musicians of various styles and generations that I won’t list them all. I’ll let you look it up. But just when you get used to the expected, expect the unexpected – a very personal record. No one is on it other than Luther and an acoustic guitar – no vocals. Don’t expect any of the stylings that he is known for. He is just a talented guitar player that spans all different genres of American music and, as he puts it best, this is in the style of John Fahey.
This is one of the most peaceful albums to listen to. Luther’s fingerpicking is intricate and keeps each song very interesting to the ear. He utilizes the slide on some songs to sail across the strings. While the songs are very melodic, his thumb provides a very deep, steady bass. No matter what you are doing, this album can put you in a trance as you listen. The subtleties in notes and the spaces between really give time for the brain to wrap around this music. I played it as background music in a busy kitchen one weekend and when it finished, I was asked to play it again – it added to the conversation.
The last two songs on the album are titled “Old Gospel Medley I” and “Old Gospel Medley II.” Some are old hymns that I’ve heard in church forever, some are ala Reverend Gary Davis and some are more introspective. When you are done with these songs you have to give an “Amen” to the slide that powers you to the end.
As far as style goes, John Fahey is right on the head. You could also wrap up Mississippi John Hurt, Leo Kottke, Kelly Joe Phelps, Derek Bailey, and Tony Furtado together and see what you get. While none of them hit this on the head, they all have qualities that Luther possesses to create his own sound. While he is rooted in the Mississippi music he grew up with, this album gives you a taste of the player he truly is.
I can’t say it enough, watching musicians grow and change is a lot of fun. Luther Dickinson is one musician who will never just sit still and do the same old thing. If anyone said they saw this album coming five years ago I want them to tell me who will win the Kentucky Derby for the next five years. He is unpredictable, but always entertaining. This album came out on the same day that he released two others. Don’t miss a beat or you may be a few albums behind.
Kyle M. Palarino is a contributing editor at BluesWax.
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