Dickinson from the North Mississippi Allstars, Grammy winner Hart and former Squirrel Nut Zipper Mathus came together as friends and musical confreres, fans of the Mississippi blues and string band tradition.
The South Memphis String Band, a trio composed of Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), Alvin “Youngblood” Hart (Grammy-winning bluesman) and Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers), launches its first tour on April 23, 2009 in Dallas, Texas, targeting the East and South. The three friends, bound by Memphis and North Mississippi roots, will tour ahead of recording their debut album later this year. So far only two songs have been unveiled, both at the trio’s MySpace page myspace.com/southmemphisstringband. So the April and May dates will be an opportunity for fans to get in on the ground floor.
Although they’d known each other for years, the trio’s musical spirit gelled last year when they recorded a yet-unreleased album with Luther’s father, legendary producer Jim Dickinson, called New Moon Jellyroll Freedom Rockers.
The South Memphis String Band was greatly influenced by the Mississippi Sheiks, Gus Cannon & the Memphis Jug Band and other string bands and jug bands of their ilk, as well as Mississippi Delta and Hill Country blues. They will travel with a passel of guitars, mandolins, banjos, lap steel guitars and harmonicas.
Luther Dickinson is lead guitarist and vocalist for the North Mississippi Allstars as well as lead guitarist for the Black Crowes. The son of producer Jim Dickinson was born and raised in West Tennessee, where he played concerts and gained recording experience with his father and brother, Cody. The family moved to the hills of North Mississippi in 1985. Luther befriended the musical families of Otha Turner, R. L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. They were the inspiration for Luther and Cody to form the North Mississippi Allstars in ‘96. The Allstars have been nominated for three Grammy Awards in the Best Contemporary Blues category. Luther produced two Otha Turner albums: Everybody Hollerin' Goat and From Senegal To Senatobia. Luther was recently featured in Rolling Stone as one of the “New Guitar Gods.” He has recorded with the Replacements, Mojo Nixon, Toy Caldwell, Billy Lee Riley, John Medeski and Robert Randolph (as The Word), John Hiatt and Jon Spencer, in addition to Turner, Burnside and the elder Dickinson.
Though born in Oakland, California, Alvin “Youngblood” Hart had family connections in Carroll County, Miss., and spent time there in his childhood, hearing his relatives’ stories of Charlie Patton. Influenced by the country blues, Hart is known as one of the world's foremost practitioners of that genre. He’s also a faithful torchbearer for the ‘60s and ‘70s guitar rock of his youth, as well as Western Swing and vintage country. His music has been compared to that of artists ranging from Leadbelly and Spade Cooley to Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy. Hart plays acoustic and electric guitar as well as banjo and sometimes the mandolin. Bluesman Taj Mahal once said of him, “The boy has got thunder in his hands.” In 2003, Hart's album Down in the Alley was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. In ‘05, Hart received a Grammy Award for his contribution to Beautiful Dreamer — The Songs of Stephen Foster. He was featured in the Wim Wenders film The Soul of a Man, which was part of Martin Scorsese’s 2003 PBS series “The Blues,” and also appeared in the documentary Last of the Mississippi Jukes.
Guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and producer Jimbo Mathus grew up in Clarksdale, Miss. He first caught the public’s ear in the 1990s with the hyper-ragtime vaudeville act the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Since then, he has released many recordings of his own in a style he describes as Mississippi Music. “Basically,” Mathus says, “I combine the myriad styles of deep roots music in a type of alchemy. Blues, country, gospel and soul all go into the equation equally.” His last outing, Knockdown South, was released on his own label and received much critical acclaim, including the No. 2 spot on Honest Tune magazine’s Best of 2005 list. He runs the Delta Recording Service, a studio based in Clarksdale, and is sought out by many artists seeking the old-school style of recording. One such artist was Elvis Costello, who recorded his Grammy nominated “Monkey to Man” single in Mathus’ studio in 2005. He has produced two blues CDs that were nominated for Blues Music Awards in 2006, Duwane Burnside’s Under Pressure and Big George Brock’s Club Caravan. Additionally, he contributed vocals on the North Mississippi Allstars’ 2006 Grammy- nominated Electric Blues Watermelon. Mathus sums it up: “I break down walls and stereotypes with my music. I confuse people. I use Mississippi music, which is renegade music at heart, as my inspiration and motivation. I use it as a tool to reach people, to express my own feelings and continue to express those that came before me. I keep the old stories alive while they help keep me alive.”
Mathus says, “Luther, Youngblood Hart and myself have been musical co-conspirators for over a decade. It is only fitting that we should come together with acoustic instruments and perform Mississippi music.”
April 23 – DALLAS, TX Sons of Hermann Hall
April 24 – AUSTIN, TX Antones
April 25 – HOUSTON, TX Continental Club
April 26 – NEW ORLEANS, LA House of Blues Parish Room
April 27 – BIRMINGHAM, AL Work Play Theatre
April 28 – MACON, GA Hummingbird
April 29 – ATLANTA, GA Eddie's Attic
April 30 – CHARLOTTE, NC Evening Muse
May 1 – CARRBORO, NC Carrboro Arts Center
May 2 – RICHMOND, VA Capital Ale House
May 3 – ANNAPOLIS, MD Rams Head On Stage
May 5 – NEW YORK, N.Y. Joe's Pub (9:30pm slot)
May 7 – SELLERSVILLE/PHILADELPHIA, PA - Sellersville Theatre
May 8 – ALEXANDRIA, VA Birchmere (supporting Dr. John)
May 9 – MEMPHIS, TN Otherlands