In 2012, Luther Dickinson released four albums; among them was the instrumental acoustic record Hambone's Meditations -- his first proper solo album apart from the North Mississippi All-Stars. It was nominated for a Grammy. Rock 'N Roll Blues is, in a way, an extension of that record. It's a collection of ten songs that Dickinson claims didn't fit on his other records. Altogether they create a loose, autobiographical song cycle about a life spent making music. It's played by a tight, all-acoustic band in a relaxed backporch manner. Dickinson's voice and guitar are supported by Amy LaVere's upright bass, Sharde Thomas' drums and fife, and second drummer Lightnin' Malcolm. Everybody sings backup. The album unfolds like a road map through the backwoods of Dickinson's life. "Blood 'n Guts" is an easy-grooving yet cautionary country Americana number with shuffling snares and tom-toms. "Yard Man" is a swinging country blues with stinging acoustic guitar; the ghostly harmonies and hypnotic drums on "Goin' Country" evoke both Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. Woven through all of these tunes are senses, impressions, humorous asides, hard luck, the influences of forebears and musical ancestors, joy, grief, etc., all delivered by a wiseacre guitar-slinging poet whose insight is keen enough to keep his lyrics free of maudlin bullshit. In the title and "Bar Band," tender Mississippi open-field melodies counter the poignant lyrics. "Mojo, Mojo" is a sweet country blues girded by Thomas' fife, LaVere's bass vamp, tight tom-toms and snares, and lilting harmonies. This is the sound of Dickinson paying tribute to one of his prime influences, Thomas' grandfather Othar Turner. John Fahey's earthy American Primitive fuels "Stone's Throw," whose lyrics contains genuine irony. "Some Ol' Day" is ushered in by drums and bass, then riven with a distorted acoustic guitar to become a genuine hoodoo rocker. Closer "Karmic Debt" is an old-timey country waltz; its title disguising its romantic nature (a hymn of gratitude to a spouse), but there's enough kickdrum and razor-sharp fingerpicking to push through the skin and into the bone. Though Rock 'N Roll Blues is autobiographical in nature, it's actually much bigger. Dickinson goes outside himself as music evokes the spirits of earlier generations and the earth that bore them.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek