While the North Mississippi Allstars are usually lumped in with the post-Grateful Dead jam band community alongside the likes of Widespread Panic, they've always had a darker and bluesier undercurrent than their contemporaries, and between having crazed genius Jim Dickinson as a father, playing with the punk band DDT as teenagers, and backing up the likes on Othar Turner and R.L. Burnside in their spare time, NMAS leaders Luther Dickinson and Cody Dickinson have a welcome streak of quality craziness lurking in their music that rises to the surface when called upon. Jon Spencer of Blues Explosion fame clearly shares some of the Dickinson brothers' obsessions along the nexus of blues and punk, and in 2001 Spencer teamed up with Luther and Cody for some sessions at their Zebra Ranch recording facilities. The results were released by a small Japanese label in 2001, but The Man Who Lives for Love marks the first time this material has appeared in North America, and seven additional tracks have been included for Yep Roc's stateside release. Much of The Man Who Lives for Love follows the sonic template of Spencer's work with the Blues Explosion, though with a slightly more polished delivery and better chops; while JSBX usually aims for maximum impact, the Dickinson brothers offer a more subtle report, though they know how to do good and greasy very well, and "That's a Drag" and "I'm Not Ready" cut a massive groove while serving up a healthy portion of lean and dirty guitar bashing. The songs here favor the blues side of the formula more than much of JSBX's work, and Spencer's vocals are a shade less cartoony than many would expect, though his trademark frontman rant is still on prominent display here. However, the decision to expand The Man Who Lives for Love to 19 songs (and 74 minutes) may not have been prudent; the original dozen tunes make for a solid and compelling listening experience, but the ten-minute take of "I'm So Alone" that brings this version to a halt feels more like an anchor than anything else. Program out most of those bonus cuts and The Man Who Lives for Love is a wailing blues punk opus that mixes rough and smooth in just the right proportions.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming