Music

Album Premiere: Listen to the North Mississippi Allstars’ Up and Rolling

Mavis Staples, Jason Isbell, Cedric Burnside, and more join brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson on an album steeped in the pair’s Hill Country roots

photo: Wyatt McSpadden

North Mississippi Allstars.

In 1996, the Texas photographer Wyatt McSpadden arrived in the Mississippi Hill Country to document the region’s blues musicians, including legends R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and Otha Turner. He enlisted the help of two brothers who had spent much of their childhoods in the area and were immersed in its music: Luther and Cody Dickinson, who were soon to form the band the North Mississippi Allstars. The brothers, sons of the famed producer and musician Jim Dickinson, brought McSpadden to Turner’s home, where the fife player regaled the trio with stories while they passed around a jar of corn liquor. Before darkness fell, they arrived at Junior Kimbrough’s club located deep in the Mississippi woods to watch Kimbrough and his band blow the roof off the joint.

photo: Wyatt McSpadden

From left: Hill Country legend Junior Kimbrough, with Kenny Malone Kimbrough on drums and Garry Burnside on bass, photographed in 1996; A young Luther Dickinson and Otha Turner on Turner's front porch.

Fast forward more than twenty years, and McSpadden discovered a roll of film from that Hill Country trip that he thought had been lost. He sent the photos to Luther, who was floored by the images. Inspired, the brothers returned to their Zebra Ranch studio, near Hernando, Mississippi, to record. The result is Up and Rolling, a deeply personal collection of originals and a few choice covers that honors their upbringing and the region’s rich musical history. Mavis Staples joins the brothers for a slinky version of “What You Gonna Do” from the Staple Singers’ 1965 classic Freedom Highway, while Jason Isbell and Duane Betts guest on a searing version of “Mean Old World,” a song that Jim Dickinson recorded with Duane Allman and Eric Clapton during Clapton’s Layla sessions. Long time Hill Country friends Cedric Burnside, R.L.’s grandson, and Sharde Thomas, Otha Turner’s granddaughter—who Luther says is now “the Queen of the Hill Country and my favorite singing partner”—appear throughout on songs such as “Drunk Outdoors” and “Living Free” that bring the hypnotic grooves that make the Hill Country sizzle. 

photo: Wyatt McSpadden

From left: Otha Turner; R.L. Burnside at "Junior's Place."

As Luther puts it, “[Wyatt’s] images stopped me in my tracks. Time slowed down and became elastic. We were inspired to make new music to accompany these images that captured the music that changed our lives. What did the music sound like that night? What does Mississippi music sound like now? Ideally, what would be on the push button AM/FM radio as we drove through the hills?”

Garden & Gun is thrilled to premiere Up and Rolling, which comes out this Friday. Stream the album below.


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