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North Mississippi Allstars: Shake Hands With Shorty

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North Mississippi Allstars

Album: Shake Hands With Shorty
Label: Tone-Cool

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The members of North Mississippi Allstars aren't quite as famous as the name implies, but the pedigree is there: Luther and Cody Dickinson are the sons of famed Memphis producer Jim Dickinson. Dickinson has worked with everyone from the Stones to Dylan to Big Star to The Replacements, and his love of the blues and taste for the eclectic seem to have been instilled in his offspring. Luther and Cody were raised in the northern hills of Mississippi, birthplace of the loping blues of Fred McDowell, R.L. Burnside, and Junior Kimbrough. Northern Mississippi blues is far more expansive than its Delta strain, encouraging artists to stretch out, which may explain why Shake Hands With Shorty, North Mississippi Allstars' debut, at times recalls such Southern-rock stalwarts as the Allman Brothers. There's a trippy quality to this brand of blues that jam bands have been quick to pick up on, and Shake Hands With Shorty is best when the Dickinsons twist their songs into trance-inducing material. "All Night Long" is the only true 10-minute epic here, but the shorter but no less hypnotic "Drop Down Mama" and "Goin' Down South" imply the same sense of inertia. Not surprisingly, the band has almost instantly gained a reputation as a stellar live act, and that's probably the best environment in which to experience North Mississippi Allstars. But despite the thin vocals and spare arrangements, Shake Hands With Shorty serves nicely as a fine dose of Southern voodoo.