With their 2010 debut album, Home Sweet Home, the members of the South Memphis String Band -- Luther Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Jimbo Mathus -- have succeeded in producing a recording that sounds like it could have been made at least 80 years earlier. The trio members, each of whom has had other affiliations and recording projects, play acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, Dobro, and other string instruments, along with the occasional harmonica and kazoo, plus plenty of heavy foot-tapping for percussion, as they make their way through a series of songs credited to "Traditional" as songwriter (as well as occasional covers and originals), trading off roughly sung vocals on matters of rural concern including livestock, bootlegging, and other criminal activity. The murder of outlaw Jesse James by "that dirty little coward" Robert Ford leads things off, and other selections include "Eighteen Hammers," which sounds like it would work fine for a chain gang on a Southern highway, and the self-descriptive "Bootlegger's Blues," borrowed from the repertoire of the Mississippi Sheiks. Dickinson, Hart, and Mathus give the impression they have just gotten together in a studio to trade tunes and then released the first-take results, including count-ins and stray spoken remarks, with the musical arrangements sounding as if they were invented on the spot. It's a devoted act of preservation to seem this spontaneous.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann