James Luther Dickinson, Killers From Space

Keith Harris

By Keith Harris

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Killers From Space

James Luther Dickinson

Before his sons grew up to become the North Mississippi All-Stars, Jim Dickinson was playing piano for Aretha and the Stones, producing Big Star and the Replacements, and, like most producers and session men, hearing lots of songs. He remembered the best of 'em, gradually adopting the role of a modern day folklorist — a folklorist who just so happens to record his own field recordings. Dickinson's flexible piano style adapts easily to both the stately roll of "Eloise" and the "Brown Sugar"-style boogie of "You Better Rock Me Baby," while his boys do him proud in their supporting role. And age has done Dickinson the favor of making his valiant approximation of the melody sound gruff and weathered — his creaky voice can find its way around a tune, though it might take a roundabout route to get there.

This isn’t country, and it isn’t blues — it’s just plain crazy ol’ Memphis music.

Some of this material hails from familiar-ish sources: "Dirty On Yo Mama" was written by Jim Hurley ("Son of a Preacher Man") and "Texas Me" is a Doug Sahm song about fading away in California. Others are more obscure, pilfered from forgotten Green on Red side projects or, in the case of the forlorn "No, No Never Again," from some Australian folkies Dickinson produced in the '80s. Then there's "Nature Boy," an obscure Tennessee punk number that's so weirdly loose it barely seems to be happening, with tinkling piano, drums that shuffle along and horns calling in from another room. This isn't country, and it isn't blues — it's just plain crazy ol 'Memphis music.