Luther Dickinson - Onward & Upward CD
Surely there is light beyond the darkness as there is dawn after the night.
I will not be gone as long as the music lingers.
I have gladly given my life to Memphis music and it has given me back ahundredfold.
from The Last Words of James Luther Dickinson
Just three days after the death of his father, Memphis (and Muscle Shoals andMiami) music legend Jim Dickinson, Luther Dickinson opened the doors to thefamily s Zebra Ranch studio in Independence, Mississippi and recorded Onward andUpward, an album of gospel songs and hymns over the course of a few hours.Luther, one third of the North Mississippi All-Stars and now a member ofThe Black Crowes, was joined by an ad hoc group dubbed The Sons of Mudboy(an homage to his late father s influential rock band Mudboy and the Neutrons)who were all close to Dickinson the elder and wished to address his loss in amusical way. The Sons of Mudboy include two veterans of the original Mudboy: SidSelvidge (guitar, vocals) and Jimmy Crosthwait (washboard, vocals). Also on thesession were Jimbo Mathus (guitar, mandolin, banjo, vocals) formerly ofthe Squirrel Nut Zippers and of the South Memphis String Band,Steve Selvidge (guitar, dobro, vocals) and Paul Taylor (washtub bass) as well asvocalist Shannon McNally.
Inspired by Dickinson pater familias, Luther and company duplicated the sound ofmid-Century era reel-to-reel filed recordings, using only two microphonesplugged directly into a two-track 1/2 inch tape recorder: no mixing after thefact. Ardent s John Fry mastered the tracks directly from the two track to themother stamper from which (vinyl) pressings were sourced. Most of the songs werenailed in just one take with just a few exceptions and those were completed inno more than three takes. That s just how we do it, Luther muses.
Onward and Upward will be released on November 10 by Memphis International, thelabel for which Jim Dickinson, as his performing alter ego James LutherDickinson, released his last three album, Jungle Jim and the Voodoo Tiger(2006), Killers From Space (2007) and this year s Dinosaurs Run in Circles.
The songs are part of Luther s musical heritage. He grew up hearing Softly andTenderly and Leaning on the Everlasting Arms at the Second Avenue Baptist Churchin Memphis where his paternal grandmother played piano. He learned His Eye Is OnThe Sparrow from a hymnal that his father shared with him his mom, Mary LindsayDickinson, actually sang it to him in the hospital where her husband was beingtreated during his last days. Mississippi Fred McDowell s album Amazing Grace isthe source of both Back Back Train and Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning andLuther had been known to perform them with the late Otha Turner who closed everyshow with Glory Glory, also included on Onward and Upward. Let It Roll is anoriginal that sprang to Luther s mind at the moment he was loading in the analogtape machine on the day of the recordings. Another original, Up Over Yonder waswritten the day Luther s grandmother passed away.
The inspiration for the album s title came from the legendary Sam Phillips whowrote a heartfelt ode to Luther s dad a while back:
Shade of anticipation is the ever present glint in Jim D s eye.
Hearing strange noises that others let pass by.
Music that make you shout walk the backs of gospel benches,
Makes you moan yes, even cry
it be could it may be
it is Jim D s soul of sound bouncing off the sky.
1. Let It Roll
2. His Eye Is On The Sparrow
3. Learning On the Everlasting Arms
4. Up Over Yonder
5. Softy and Tenderly
6. Back Back Train
7. Angel Band
8. Where the Soul of A Man Never Dies
9. You Got To Walk That Lonesome Valley
10. In The Garden
11. Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning
12. Glory Glory
Release date 11.10.2009