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Published: 2010/01/18
by Brian Robbins

South Memphis String Band
Home Sweet Home

Memphis International

“If you don’t dig this, there is seriously something wrong with you.” – The late Jim Dickinson from the liner notes to Home Sweet Home.

The South Memphis String Band exists solely because members Luther Dickinson, Jimbo Mathus, and Alvin Youngblood Hart love playing Mississippi roots music together. It’s as simple as that. This is no media- or ego-driven supergroup event awash in PR hoo-raw … this is just the pure sound of fingers, strings, wood, and throats made by three friends. Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars/Black Crowes), Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers), and Hart (as real a country bluesman as you’ll ever meet) have crossed musical orbits for some time now; Home Sweet Home marks the first time they’ve gone into the studio as a trio and laid down some of the music that’s in their bones.

Recorded with a sound that’s dry and real and right alongside of you, Home Sweet Home offers up a dozen tracks – two of which are originals, but I’m not even going to tell you which ones, ‘cause it doesn’t matter. They blend right in with the rest of Home Sweet Home’s traditional string band tunes just as if they’d been written a hundred years ago. Who does what on any given song matters not, either – guitars, banjo, mandolin, mouth harp, and the clomp of hard-soled workboats on a wooden floor provide the backing for Hart, Mathus, and Dickinson’s wind-up-and-let-‘er-fly vocals. (And they could sit on the back porch all afternoon and swap instruments back and forth, anyway.)

These were not isolation booth sessions with layers of overdubs; count-ins, foot stomps, and knuckles on the pickguard are all here. If someone turns away from the mic for a moment – or leans into a mandolin trill – the sound moves with them. This is passion rather than polish; heart and gut rather than gloss and slickness and three dozen takes on a punched-in guitar lick.

Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jimbo Mathus, and Luther Dickinson have each been traveling their own paths in their musical careers; luckily for us, they’ve met at the same crossroads. The South Memphis String Band is the result.

Hallelujah – crank it up and make those floorboards rattle.

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