North Mississippi Allstars
First Appeared in The Music Box March 2002, Volume 9, #3
Written by John Metzger
On its debut Shake Hands with Shorty, the members of the North Mississippi Allstars — Luther Dickinson, Cody Dickinson, and Chris Chew — introduced themselves to the world by reinterpreting the music of Fred McDowell, R.L. Burnside, and Junior Kimbrough as raucous, jam-laden excursions. Ruminations of Cream, Jimi Hendrix, the Allman Brothers Band, and the Grateful Dead could be heard throughout the album. This unquestionably helped the group to plunge headfirst into the crowded jam band scene, while also gathering volumes of favorable press from critics and fans alike.
Much anticipation, then, heralded the release of the North Mississippi Allstars' follow-up 51 Phantom, and although it is a solid effort, the album might not play quite as well to the group's current audience. This is not so much due to the brevity of the songs as it is to the general flow of the outing. Where the tracks on Shake Hands with Shorty drifted together to form a cohesive set, 51 Phantom comes off more like a series of individual snapshots.
That's not to say that with 51 Phantom, the North Mississippi Allstars fell prey to the sophomore curse. It didn't. The album is still a remarkable effort that finds the band once again parlaying ancient blues styles into something exciting for a younger generation. Quite simply, the group has an uncanny knack for dragging the hill-country sound through the psychedelic '60s and fusing it with an edgy undercurrent of hardcore punk. As a result, the North Mississippi Allstars is as likely to pay tribute to the Allman Brothers Band (Ship) or Steppenwolf (Sugartown) as it is to Black Flag (Mud) or Los Lobos (Lord Have Mercy). The primary complaint with 51 Phantom — and it's a minor one at that — lies only in the fact that the group doesn't make these transitions within a single song. Is this a bit nit-picky? Perhaps. But this is exactly what made the band's first album a blues classic. ½
Of Further Interest...
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box