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Published: 2012/05/09
by Brian Robbins

South Memphis String Band
Old Times There …

Memphis International Records

Picking up where they left off with 2010’s Home Sweet Home, the acoustic time machine known as the South Memphis String Band have offered up another porch plank-stomping blend of traditional and original tunes. (And once again, I defy you to tell the difference between a newly-penned song and a century-old one without looking at the credits … this is the work of old souls.) For Old Times There … Luther Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Jimbo Mathus brought bassist Justin Showah on board to provide some extry low-end – and he proves himself to be a natural fit. (Put an ear to Showah’s gut bucket-toned bass work on “Town With No Shame” off Mathus’ Confederate Buddha album and you’ll know that he’s the perfect man for the job.)

Mathus’ Delta Recording Studio in Como, MS (a converted storefront that shares a building with the local Post Office) was the setting for the recording of Old Times There … and the mix of cool Mississippi mojo, plenty o’ wood, and vintage equipment make for an overall sound and vibe that’s true to the music being produced: righteously raw and real. The first thing you hear on the opening cut (the instrumental “Good Old Rebel”) is an off-mic foot stomp; that’s not an accident – that’s a pulse. Get ahold of that thought and you’ve got the right mindset for some South Memphis String Band music.

At times the mix of good-timey guitars, banjos, mouth harps, and mandos belies the racial edge of songs such as “B-L-A-C-K”, “Can You Blame The Colored Man”, and “Turnip Greens” – but that’s the way this music has always worked. (Same as it ever was … same as it ever was.) Social/political commentary (“See The Uncle Sam”, “Freedom”) rubs raggedy elbows with just-for-shits-and-giggles tunes (“Just Like A Monkey”, “Skillet Good And Greasy”). And sometimes there are instrumentals played just because they needed to be played (“Sandy River Belle”, “Take This Hammer”).

More than just novelty albums, Old Times There … and its predecessor Home Sweet Home are fine and dandy examples of some talented friends playing music they love. Consider them newly-unearthed time capsules of old music played by a band that never existed, if you’d like. This is our roots, folks.

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