Recording information: Arlyn Studios, Austine, TX; Brooklyn Studios, NYC; Harmony Hill, Nashville, TN; Music Shed Studio, New Orleans, LA; Royal Studios, Memphis, TN; Sawhorse Studio, St Louis, MO; Weights and Measures, Kansas City, MO; Zebra Ranch Studios, Independence, MS.
Photographer: Tom Bejgrowicz.
The North Mississippi Allstars celebrate their 20th anniversary (21st, actually) by going all the way back to their roots. Prayer for Peace is a set comprised mostly of blues and folk covers played by Luther & Cody Dickinson assisted by a cast of friends and longstanding collaborators. While five tracks were tracked at Grand Royal Studios in Memphis with co-producer Boo Mitchell, the remainder of the 11 tunes were cut all over the country with a host of guest musicians.
The title track is an original deep blues tune with a slippery, funky backbeat. Longtime collaborator Sharde Thomas (granddaughter of blues pioneer Otha Turner and the leader of the Rising Star Fife & Drum Ensemble) adds a duet harmony vocal and her fife to Luther's shouting guitar, Cody's funky snare, and guest Oteil Burbridge's bumping bassline. The Allstars pay righteous homage to heroes here, too. The riotous take on R.L. Burnside's "Long Haired Doney" is one of three associated with the Delta bluesman -- who personally mentored the Dickinsons. The other two are the house rockin' "Miss Maybelle," and the moaning, crash-and-burn take on "Bird Without a Feather." Fred McDowell's "You Got to Move" (that features Hill Country guitar ace Kenny Brown) offers an update to the Rolling Stones' read with its tight, funky snare, dirty-ass slide, and the entwined voices of Luther and bassist Danielle Nicole. "61 Highway" is even more unhinged, with roiling distortion and clattering drum kit -- it juxtaposes the deep Delta juke joint blues against the showier Chicago style read through McDowell's own steely bird's-eye view. The Dickinsons deliver a wonderful take on the American traditional folk-country-blues "Deep Ellum." The tune pays homage to the historic black Dallas neighborhood that gave the world Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, and Lead Belly. It was first recorded in the early 20th century by the Cofer Brothers (as Georgia Black Bottom) and later covered by everyone from the Shelton Brothers in the '30s to Jerry Lee Lewis in the '50s and the Grateful Dead in the '80s. It's done here as a party boogie with Dominic Davis on bass and Sharise Norman adding glorious harmony vocals. The set-closer is a sweet, tender cover of the country gospel standard "Bid You Goodnight." The song dates back to the 19th century, but its two most famous versions are Joseph Spence & the Pindar Family's from the '50s, and the Dead's in the late '60s.This take retains the sweet country feel with Luther's slide playing the role of another singing voice. The North Mississippi Allstars have given us one of their finest recordings simply by being true to themselves. This music is eternal, and their obvious reverence for it is shown in how easily they just let it come through. No matter where it was recorded or who plays on it, the feel is the same: Open, willing, and wooly. ~ Thom Jurek
Magnet - "[T]he Dickinsons display their bond with jam deities like the Dead and the Allman Brothers Band, as well as their lineage from Hill Country elders Otha Turner and R.L. Burnside."