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Make A Move Hill Country Revue

Razor & Tie

In one of those rare rock n’ roll moments of family bonding superseding the usual tensions and inevitable punch-ups, Luther Dickinson stepped away from his role in North Mississippi Allstars when he landed a gig with the Black Crowes, and an intense drama did not materialize. Rather than feel abandoned by this, his brother, Cody, and longtime friend and fellow NMAS member Chris Chew, moved forward with a dose of blues rock that’s high octane in a world increasingly going hybrid. Named Hill Country Revue after a NMAS album, this new configuration, which includes contributions from Luther, recently released Make A Move.

Right about now, I’m supposed to give some reasoned, well thought out explanation of why you should make time for this release (and you should!) but just like the source inspiration for these 10 tracks, I’ll just go with a gut feeling. DAMN! THIS IS SMOKIN’ HOT!!! I can’t recall an album in 2009 that I wanted to start from the beginning even when I wasn’t finished listening to it. And then do it again! Enough with the exclamation points. You get the idea.

So often bands within the jamband scene are unable to balance matters between a studio effort versus a live performance. Here, the creators get things just right. The majority of the songs were written by Garry Burnside, son of blues legend R.L. Burnside, with a couple covers of the senior Burnside’s material to keep it in the family. The numbers have a taut construction that never stray too far. That, of course, should happen when HCR plays out. The Dickinsons regularly mention how the blues firmament within their Southern surroundings runs through their veins. In a sly twist, there’s an overt nod to that when “Georgia Women” gets a brief reprise in the form of juke joint treatment at the end of the album. But throughout Make A Move you hear how the combination of blood, sweat and musical notes flows from the Delta, branches out to other territories including England. The band members have ingested all this and reconfigured it. There’s even a sense of the past being the starting point on “Highway Blues,” a descendent of “Walkin’ Blues.”

Opening number, “Alice Mae,” fools me with 40 seconds of the music attempting to find its way. Suddenly, it does just that as a gale force blast of swamp water guitar riffs and whiskey-soaked harmonica team up. It ends with a groove that legitimately would feel right if it went on til the musicians numb bloody fingertips could play it no more. (By the way, I think that may be a definition of selfish.’) Following that, HCR announces itself with “Hill Country Revue.” While the lyrics are a bit pedestrian (“We are comin’/ to your town/to rock n’ roll/and get down”) all is forgiven due to the song’s exuberant party atmosphere. The only thing missing here is the smell of barbeque cooking and spilled beer.

The best part? It doesn’t stop; no chance of the early portion of the album leaning heavy on good tunes so that filler can pad it out later. Not here. Sure, the pace slows down — “You Can Make It” doesn’t contain the hard blues of previous numbers but it has a hook and positivity that should make it an automatic selection for any self-help soundtrack. Finally, “Growing Up In Mississippi,” which begins as a slow burn lamenting a dead end existence and then, with a solo that goes off the rails, builds into the type of number that is as appropriate to close an album this fierce as it does concluding a live set. With the Crowes leaning more towards Laurel Canyon than Southern Gothic, this release is enough to school Luther’s new band of brothers.

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