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1. Coal Black Mattie
2. Snake Drive
3. Brooks Run to the Ocean
4. Shimmy She Wobble
5. I'm In Jail
6. Used To Be
7. Let Me In
8. Crazy 'Bout You
9. Bird Without A Feather
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NMAllstars - Tate County Hill Country Blues- reviewed by Josh Mintz
(Originally written for 12/29/03 and consent given for Grotto use.)

When the North Mississippi Allstars album Polaris was released this past fall, it got mixed reviews from the band's fanbase. Most of the criticism was based around the fact that the band deviated from a proven method to get more mainstream appeal. Anyone who felt that the Allstars had "sold out" will be quite pleased with their new release, Tate County Hill Country Blues. This release has had very little press; at this point it is only available for order off of their father Jim Dickinson's web site,, and a good bit of their fanbase probably doesn't know it even exists. They're missing out if they're unaware.

Those who purchased Polaris with the anticipation of hearing typical Allstar blues were undoubtedly disappointed with the more pop-oriented tunes that make up much of the disc. Tate County brings the band back to its roots, mainly because the material was actually recorded prior to the release of their first album. The title says it all: Tate County Hill Country Blues is exactly what you get with this offering. No pop, no experimentation, just good-old, down-home blues. From start to finish, the listener gets the feeling that he's sitting on the porch of the house depicted on the cover of the album, with brothers Luther (guitar) and Cody (drums) Dickinson and bassist Chris Chew, on a lazy Sunday evening as the sun sets. There are even crickets chirping between tracks, adding to the ambiance.

The disc is entirely cover songs, ranging from tunes by R.L. Burnside (whose son, Duwayne, is in the current Allstars lineup, but does not appear on the disc) to Mississippi Fred McDowell. The disc opens with "Coal Black Mattie," which appeared on their first release, 1999's Shake Hands With Shorty, under the name "Po Black Maddie." This version is a stripped down, slower take, laced with the late Otha Turner's cane fife. The next track is a tune that has been circulating via their live recordings for years under the name "Let My Baby Ride," but makes its first appearance on an official release as "Snake Drive." Other highlights on the album include the Allstars' seven-plus minute instrumental "Shimmy She Wobble," an Otha Turner tune. "Iım In Jail" features a great backbeat by Cody, telling the story of a man in jail (not for the first time) on Christmas, pleading for someone to bring him a present. It's a hand-clapping, foot-stomping number that truly evokes what the Mississippi blues are all about. Showing their versatility as a band, Luther picks up the mandolin for "Used To Be," Cody's electric washboard makes an appearance, and patriarch Jim Dickinson shows up from time to time on the organ.

In terms of classification, the blues has many flavors. You have Memphis blues, ala B.B. King; you have Chicago blues with Buddy Guy; even Texas blues with players like Stevie Ray Vaughan. When all is said and done, although they're not the pioneers, the North Mississippi Allstars will undoubtedly be one of the groups that come to mind when Mississippi blues are discussed. They're truly throwbacks to an earlier time, and Tate County Hill Country Blues is a fine offering from the band, paying homage to the masters of their genre.

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