Home Sweet Home
South Memphis String Band

Home Sweet Home

No Depression
July 11, 2010

It takes guts to put the word Memphis in the name of your band. The same can be said for Memphis International Records who released this and many other great albums. Because, let's face it: no disrespect to New Orleans, Austin, Nashville, or anywhere else, but Memphis is American music. It is W.C. Handy, B.B. King, Big Star, Sun Records and Beale Street. It is Stax, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Isaac Hayes, Memphis Minne, Rufus Thomas, and the Burnette Brothers and their Rock 'n Roll Trio. It's American Sound Studios, Booker T. and Al Green. It's Furry Lewis and Jerry Lee Lewis. Yes, it's even Johnny Cash.

There's no reason to worry though about disgracing Memphis music. The South Memphis String Band, a trio consisting of Luther Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Jimbo Mathus have created a record that Sam Phillips would have been proud to release. The album contains folk ballads like "Jesse James" and the original "Bloody Bill", Carter Family and Mississippi Sheiks standards such as "Dixie Darlin'" and "Bootlegger's Blues", and even a rousing gospel numbers "Let Your Light Shine on Me". For lovers of string bands, rural blues, or just good music, it doesn't get much better than this. Of course, you should have known that as soon as you found out that Luther Dickinson was involved.

-Adam Sheets

Vintage Guitar
August 2010

Continuing the resurgence of string and jug bands, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers), and Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars and Black Crowes) play guitars, mandolins, kazoos, harmonicas, and banjos – no amps allowed. Songs by Blind Willie Johnson, Gus Cannon, and the Mississippi Sheiks (and two originals) are handled with equal parts reverence, energy, and ease. –DF

Audiophile Audition
June 17, 2010

The musical collective South Memphis String Band's first album Home Sweet Home is a trip back to an Americana and folk/gospel roots genre that fills any hole in the musical circle of life. Luther Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Jimbo Mathus took their time with the 11 track release, a mixture of original and traditional songs.

My favorite track on the CD, an original, Worry 'Bout Your Own Backyard, is one of the best-written and played songs I've heard this year. The swaggering bluesy strum of the guitar, the pick of a mandolin, mixed in with a little kazoo and common sense lyrics; this chestnut owns the album. Along with Worry 'Bout Your Own Backyard, SMSB's versions of Let Your Light Shine On Me, Bootlegger's Blues and Dixie Darling are special in their own right. Interpretation and performance of these songs can easily take your imagination on a ride to the deep south. Sitting under mossy draped trees, sipping some home-made elixir and jamming the day away singing the blues.

SMSB's background is as impressive as their potential. Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars / Black Crowes), Hart (a Grammy winner) and Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers) are not new to the production of albums. This flow is a little different though. The laid back approach of getting into the music first and the business of putting it down later has worked quite well on Home Sweet Home.

Originality is hard to come by these days. It's the reinvention of the classic Blues/Roots/Folk and Gospel genres that has lifted the once nearly crippled music industry back onto their boogie bustin' feet. If you've heard this type of music before, you will love it in an instant. If this is your first dip in the creek, you will return for many many more.

-Paul Pelon IV

Blues Revue Magazine
April/May 2010

The word "supergroup" is such a dated and clichéd term that one hesitates to apply it to any contemporary act regardless of the pedigrees of its members. Still, the combination of the North Mississippi Allstars/Black Crowes' Luther Dickinson, Mississippi homeboy Jimbo Mathus, and deep Delta bluesman Alvin Youngblood Hart has to be considered an extraordinary lineup in the blues world. Normally electric, they unplug on this side project, dredge up some traditional tunes along with obscure covers, and let fly on a set that owes nothing to pop, rock or post war music of any style.

Guitars, banjo, kazoo and lots of foot stomping/hand clapping are the only ingredients. The members, who trade off lead vocals and join in on often ragged harmonies, are so clearly in the moment and enjoying themselves that the effect is as stirring and inspirational as any contemporary release.

The concepts run from bootlegging (the Mississippi Sheiks' "Bootlegger's Blues") to gospel (Blind Willie Johnson's "Let Your Light Shine on Me") and creaky love songs (A.P. Carter's "Dixie Darling") but are connected by crackling performances of musicians playing with zero concern for commercial considerations. This is clearly music created from the heart. It seems the threesome are thrilled to join together to simply make and promote the sounds that have inspired them in their varied pursuits, most of which are louder, more boisterous and aimed at a wider (ie: younger) audience.

There's nothing more unplugged and raw than a chain gang song. Here, the trio charges into "Eighteen Hammers" with no instruments except soulful voices and rhythmic handclaps. The effect is nearly as chilling as if they were shackled together breaking rocks on the roadside. The style might be dated, but the execution is more intense, powerful and oddly uplifting than any slick studio concoction.

The closing "Home Sweet Home" ties up the album in a neat bundle, with crying mandolin mirroring the repeated "there's no place like home" chorus. For these three well traveled veterans, this session, recorded in the XM radio studios, feels as if, after many trips away, they are truly back home again, at least philosophically.

-Hal Horowitz

Living Blues Magazine
February 2010

The memory of the Mississippi Sheiks had largely faded until resurfacing in recent years through the contemporary old-time sounds of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Geoff and Maria Muldaur, and others. Now, Luther Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Jimbo Mathus explore the type of acoustic music popularized by the short-lived Sheiks during the early years of the Great Depression, along with related rural styles, in a more informal manner than the aforementioned artists. The South Memphis String Band's approach is rather ragged as they trade lead vocals, harmonize casually, and swap instruments: guitar, banjo, mandolin, and occasional harmonica, kazoo, and fife.

Neither the booklet notes by the CD's producer, Luther Dickinson's late father Jim, nor the credits bother to say who sings lead and plays what on the various tracks, seemingly vital information that the Chocolate Drops would be careful to indicate. And there few credits and no commentary on the origins of many songs, leaving consumers interested in such matter to do research on their own.

For the record, the program consists of Things Bout Comin' My Way and Bootlegger's Blues, both associated with the Mississippi Sheiks; Jesse James, first recorded by Bascom Lamar Lunsford in 1924 and later by Woody Guthrie and others; the traditional folk song Deep Blue Sea; the Appalachian fiddle and banjo tune Old Hen; the Jimbo Mathus-Shorty Brown composition Worry 'Bout Your Own Backyard; Blind Willie Johnson's Let You Light Shine On Me; The Carrier Line, recorded by Sid Hemphill for Alan Lomax in 1942; Bloody Bill Anderson, a ballad about an infamous Confederate guerrilla in Missouri that's credited to one G.E. Hart; Eighteen Hammers, a chain gang song recorded for Lomax in 1960 by Johnny Lee Moore and the Mississippi Penitentiary Prisoners; the Carter Family's Dixie Darling; and the 19th-century pop song Home, Sweet Home.

These songs are of both white and black vintage and in long-ago times were probably performed by musicians of both races. That the interracial South Memphis String Band doesn't delve into such concerns suggests the folk process by which musicians transmitted songs and styles in olden days, as opposed to scholarly methods imposed by folklorists. Luther, Alvin, and Jimbo sound like three old friends swapping songs on a porch and having a grand time doing it.

If the CD has an underlying theme, it's suggested by the title. By including numbers about James and Anderson, two notorious supporters of the Confederacy, and concluding the set with Home, Sweet Home, a favorite of both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, the three musicians perhaps intended a message of healing, much as Mickey Newbury did when he juxtaposed Dixie, The Battle Hymn Of The Republic, and All My Trials in An American Trilogy.

-Lee Hildebrand


The South Memphis String Band is Luther Dickinson (NMAS, Black Crowes), Alvin Youngblood Hart and Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers). Home Sweet Home counts as the group's debut release. These guys have been playing music together for years so it's no surprise the cohesive nature of these old-time 12 songs sound brilliant. Before he died last year, Luther's father Jim wrote this about The South Memphis String Band:

"Spring thaw. The voice of the turtle is heard in the land. Nature's miracle of rebirth fills the breeze with the sweet smell of Easter blossoms. It's a good time to listen to the blues. As the free world teeters once again on the terrifying brink of depression, return with us now to those bygone days of yesteryear and lose your troubles in the timeless songs of the South Memphis String Band. Three younger contemporary blues artists, each in his own right a rising star. Three modern Mississippi musicians on a knight's quest to retrieve, preserve and carry into the future America's most unique and meaningful musical statement. String Band music from the Mississippi Skeiks and Cannon's Jug Stompers to the South Carolina Chocolate Drops represent to scholars the pre be bop of the South. Sophisticated chord progressions syncopate into what appears to be medicine show vaudeville humor yet with a dark core of philosophic irony that gives modern relevance and meaning to an antique form.

"These three musicians are each different yet the same. Luther Dickinson's good natured slide has spread the North Mississippi Hill Country Boogie to the world. Jimbo Mathus is the singing voice of Huckleberry Finn. The mighty Alvin Youngblood Hart is a force of nature and perhaps the best modern purveyor of the early Delta blues alive today. So pull up a chair and pour some gin in your glass. If you don't dig this there is seriously something wrong with you."

"Jesse James" opens the disc. The song sounds as if it was recorded in the 1930s, and still retains a timeless quality for an old musical story. Hart's banjo-playing propels "Deep Blue Sea" as Dickinson and Mathus serve as side-instrumentalists on this handed-down composition. "Old Hen" incorporates the blues, country and bluegrass into one streamlined sound as Dickinson sings the ballad narrative.

Mathus' original composition "Worry Bout Your Own Backyard" sounds like it could be a cut from Levon Helm's Dirt Farmer or Dust to Digital's Goodbye, Babylon. "Things Is Bout Coming My Way" emits a homespun quality you might hear in a saloon at three o'clock in the afternoon. These three musicians contain a strong chemistry between them, and their musical abilities are enhanced by one another.

Blind Willie Johnson's "Let Your Light Shine On Me" exists as a soulful, blues number that captures an Old America at its zenith. Yet, these songs were recorded in 2009. Dickinson's playing stands out on this one. "The Carrier Line" exists as some cosmic railroad country blues. "Bloody Bill Anderson" contains a banjo-mandolin-laced tune that serves as the sonic landscape to a dark tale. Hart's haunting voice resonates a chilling effect.

Jonny Lee Moore's "Eighteen Hammers" sounds like a one-take gem recorded at Zebra Ranch as the sun began to set. There's a chain-gang echo on this tune that verifies these musicians can evoke a spooky musical message. "Bootlegger's Blues", a Mississippi Sheiks song, sounds like an old Jimmie Rodgers tune where Hart convinces the listener with his strong vocal delivery.

"Dixie Darling"--an A.P. Carter song--sounds better than the original in the way these musicians interpret the musical arrangement. The title track closes the CD. Dickinson really serves as the catalyst of this group of musicians, and it's evident on this closing song. The South Memphis String Band's Home Sweet Home represents seasoned contemporary musicians paying homage to America's Old Songbook.

-James Calemine

"Home Sweet Home" is home run for String Band
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

January 25, 2010

They each occasionally trade in modern, even cutting-edge forms, but members of the new super-trio the South Memphis String Band - North Mississippi Allstars and Black Crowes guitarist Luther Dickinson, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Squirrel Nut Zipper and solo artist Jimbo Mathus - are deeply aware of the primacy of the blues in American music. It's that shared respect for the roots that has led them to collaborate on a variety of projects over the years.

But it's a safe bet that none of them has ever recorded anything as faithfully, as stubbornly traditional as this debut, a tribute to the old jug and string bands like Cannon's Jug Stompers and the Mississippi Sheiks that dominated the South in the early 20th century. Swapping around acoustic guitar, Dobro, mandolin, and banjo, singing into a shared microphone, with only the occasional foot stomp or hand clap to pound home the beat, the trio tear through reverent, deep-felt renditions of public domain tunes like "Jesse James" as well as classics by bluesman Blind Willie Johnson ("Let your Light Shine On Me") and country forefather A.P. Carter ("Dixie Darling") that illustrate the common threads in the two genres. They even introduce some of their own compositions, like Mathus' "Worry 'Bout Your Own Backyard," indistinguishable from the real thing. Not a substitute for going back and discovering groups like the Sheiks, this canny recreation is hopefully just an introduction to the music at the core of everything else.

-Mark Jordan

Philiadelphia Inquirer
January 17, 2010

Old-time folk and blues are striking a chord in these troubled times. Last year on their respective albums, Geoff Muldaur and Maria Muldaur returned to the Depression-era jug-band music they helped revive in the '60s, and a host of artists contributed to a tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks. Now a younger generation takes its turn.

The South Memphis String Band is a roots supergroup of sorts featuring Luther Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Jimbo Mathus. The album contains only two originals, but "Worry 'Bout Your Own Backyard" and "Bloody Bill Anderson" fit seamlessly with the rest of the material, which is listed as traditional or from the likes of Blind Willie Johnson, the Mississippi Sheiks, and the Carter Family. It all points up just how deeply the three musicians have absorbed this music. They bring it all back home (or "Home Sweet Home" - the album title comes from the final song) in a way that makes it resonate anew.

-Nick Cristiano

Anything Phonographic
January 25, 2010

Ever wonder what those old 78s by Gus Cannon's Jug Band or the Mississippi Sheiks would sound like it they were recorded with modern recording equipment and had no surface noise, so you could hear every instrument clearly. Or, how about a great Carter Family record with a couple of guys, instead of the ladies, backing A.P. on vocals?

Well, that's what you get on this debut CD by the "roots" supergroup - the South Memphis String Band. Comprised of young blues aficionado Alvin Youngblood Hart, Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars) and Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers), this laid back group moseys through a half-dozen classics and adds another six-pack of newly arranged traditional songs.

This isn't rock and its not exactly the blues. Its just old-timey vocal string band music. Even the packaging is laid back with no color (its strictly a monochrome affair) and no list of who is singing lead on each of the tracks.

Kick off your shoes and sit back with a "cold one". This album will provide the atmosphere you need.

-Steve Ramm

Bentley's Bandstand
February 1, 2010

Luther Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Jimbo Mathus are the members of this trio. They play timeless music from the South, and it is a true fact not many people can do this anymore. It will take you to a place where bountiful trees grace the land and heartfelt sounds fill the air. It is not something that should be taken for granted. Father Jim Dickinson, who died last August, wrote the liner notes for this mesmerizing album and his words are worth repeating: "Spring thaw. The voice of the turtle is heard in the land. Nature's miracle of rebirth fills the breeze with the sweet smell of Easter blossoms. It's a good time to listen to the blues. As the free world teeters once again on the terrifying brink of depression return with us now to those bygone days of yesteryear and lose your troubles in the timeless songs of the South Memphis String Band. Three young contemporary blues artists, each in his own right a rising star. Three modern Mississippi musicians on a knight's quest to retrieve, preserve, and carry into the future America's most unique and meaningful musical statement. String band music from the Mississippi Sheik's and Cannon's Jug Stompers to the South Carolina Chocolate Drops represent to scholars the pre bebop of the South. Sophisticated chord progressions syncopate into what appears to be medicine show vaudeville humor yet with a dark core of philosophic irony that gives modern relevance and meaning to an antique form. These three musicians are each different and yet the same. Luther Dickinson's good natured slide has spread North Mississippi Hill Country Boogie to the world. Jimbo Mathus is the singing voice of Huckleberry Finn. The mighty Alvin Youngblood Hart is a force of nature and perhaps the best modern purveyor of the early Delta blues alive today. So pull up a chair and pour some gin in your glass. If you don't dig this there is seriously something wrong with you. World Boogie is coming." -Jim Dickinson/Independence, Mississippi

-Bill Bentley

South Memphis String Band - Home Sweet Home
Blurt Online News

December 8, 2009

Dickinson + Hart + Mathus = SMSB
Now that's one roots super group... move over, Monsters of Folk!

When Luther Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Jimbo Mathus got together to make music, it certainly wasn't out of commercial consideration. This troika of roots-imbued musical pros coalesced through a shared vision and consuming passion for the music of their forebears, most notably the Mississippi Sheiks, Memphis Jug Band, Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers and other practitioners of pre-blues era roots sounds. They dubbed themselves the South Memphis String Band.

Home Sweet Home, their first album, out on Memphis International January 19th, showcases their passion for the old timey tradition that is underscored by the group's name: South Memphis String Band. South Memphis, of course, is that rough and tumble area of the Bluff City extending from downtown to the Mississippi border, and beyond. It's where Stax Records as well as, literally, hundreds of churches thrived. The sacred and profane, holy rolling and dice rolling, were cheek by jowl in old South Memphis and its modern day namesake reflects that ecumenicism quite brilliantly. For Luther, Alvin and Jimbo, South Memphis is more of a musical state of mind than a specific geographical location.

They've been called a "regional roots music supergroup" but the alliance of Dickinson (from the North Mississippi Allstars and, of late, the Black Crowes), Hart (the Grammy winner who is as equally adept at thrash rock as he is at country blues) and Mathus (of the Squirrel Nut Zippers) is more like three good friends just putting it down in a very traditional way. Mathus explained, "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."

Michael Hoinski, writing in the Austin American-Statesman witnessed what's so special about SMSB at a recent performance noting, "The American experience is the main unifier of this slap happy yet sureshot trio... Each player is principally a bluesman but also well-schooled in country, folk and gospel."

When asked about the subject matter of SMSB's repertoire, Alvin responds without hesitation, "Natural disasters, bushwackers, train songs..." Home Sweet Home's tune stack with songs identified with Gus Cannon, Blind Willie Johnson, The Mississippi Sheiks, Carter Family underscores that thought with titles like "Jesse James," "Bootlegger's Blues," and "Bloody Bill." The latter song, along with "Worry 'bout Your Own Backyard" is an original but is reflective of the old timey ethos that, thanks to the Luther, Alvin and Jimbo, continues. Whether you hold a degree in ethnomusicologist or are just a person who is moved by authentic acoustic American music, Home Sweet Home speaks your language, in beautifully measured tones. As Jimbo notes, "We decided the South Memphis String Band will never be in a hurry."

-Blurt Staff

January 18, 2010

"If you don't dig this, there is seriously something wrong with you." - The late Jim Dickinson from the liner notes to Home Sweet Home.

The South Memphis String Band exists solely because members Luther Dickinson, Jimbo Mathus, and Alvin Youngblood Hart love playing Mississippi roots music together. It's as simple as that. This is no media- or ego-driven supergroup event awash in PR hoo-raw ... this is just the pure sound of fingers, strings, wood, and throats made by three friends. Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars/Black Crowes), Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers), and Hart (as real a country bluesman as you'll ever meet) have crossed musical orbits for some time now; Home Sweet Home marks the first time they've gone into the studio as a trio and laid down some of the music that's in their bones.

Recorded with a sound that's dry and real and right alongside of you, Home Sweet Home offers up a dozen tracks - two of which are originals, but I'm not even going to tell you which ones, `cause it doesn't matter. They blend right in with the rest of Home Sweet Home's traditional string band tunes just as if they'd been written a hundred years ago. Who does what on any given song matters not, either - guitars, banjo, mandolin, mouth harp, and the clomp of hard-soled workboats on a wooden floor provide the backing for Hart, Mathus, and Dickinson's wind-up-and-let-`er-fly vocals. (And they could sit on the back porch all afternoon and swap instruments back and forth, anyway.)

These were not isolation booth sessions with layers of overdubs; count-ins, foot stomps, and knuckles on the pickguard are all here. If someone turns away from the mic for a moment - or leans into a mandolin trill - the sound moves with them. This is passion rather than polish; heart and gut rather than gloss and slickness and three dozen takes on a punched-in guitar lick.

Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jimbo Mathus, and Luther Dickinson have each been traveling their own paths in their musical careers; luckily for us, they've met at the same crossroads. The South Memphis String Band is the result.

Hallelujah - crank it up and make those floorboards rattle.

-Brian Robbins

Terrell's Tune-Up, The New Mexican (Sante Fe)
January 14, 2010

Just dead, not gone

One of the undersung giants of American music died last summer. I speak of Jim Dickinson - songwriter, piano player, record producer, music preservationist, singer (in his own gruff manner), Memphis royalty, and spiritual force.

Dickinson's footprint is all over the blues and rock 'n' roll. He played piano on the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," Aretha Franklin's "Spirit in the Dark," and Bob Dylan's album Time Out of Mind. He produced albums by The Replacements, Mudhoney, The Flamin' Groovies, and Big Star. He was a sideman for Ry Cooder for years. He's responsible for some wonderful field recordings of Sleepy John Estes, Furry Lewis, and Otha Turner. Although a Southerner through and through, he captured the spirit of the Southwest in his soulful, Mexican-flavored "Across the Borderline," (co-written with Cooder and John Hiatt), the best version of which was sung by Freddy Fender in Cooder's soundtrack for the 1982 movie The Border.

The list of artists he produced and/or recorded with seems to go on forever: Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Jerry Jeff Walker, Esther Phillips, Joe "King" Carrasco, T-Model Ford, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Flat Duo Jets, Toots & The Maytals, Jason & The Scorchers, the Tarbox Ramblers, and Petula Clark.

Yes, Petula Clark!

Dickinson also released several good-time, blues-soaked, country-fried albums of his own in recent years, including Free Beer Tomorrow and Jungle Jim and The Voodoo Tiger. I recently stumbled across a live Dickinson collaboration with Chuck Prophet, A Thousand Footprints in the Sand (a line from "Across the Borderline") from the '90s.

Dickinson's spirit is all over a couple of new CDs involving his son Luther Dickinson, who is best known for his work in the North Mississippi Allstars. There's Onward and Upward, credited to Luther Dickinson and The Sons of Mudboy, released late last year. And Home Sweet Home by the South Memphis String Band is released on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Home Sweet Home was recorded sometime before Dickinson's death. That's apparent, because he wrote the liner notes for the CD and basically reviewed the album in the process. "If you don't dig this there is seriously something wrong with you," he wrote. I won't go quite that far, but I agree with old Jim that this is seriously righteous album.

Luther Dickinson is joined in the South Memphis String Band by Mathus as well as by Alvin Youngblood Hart. Luther and his pals share Dickinson's love for the old string bands and jug bands that sprouted up around Memphis and other parts of the South in the early part of the last century. This album has covers of songs done decades before by The Mississippi Sheiks, Cannon's Jug Stompers, Blind Willie Johnson, The Carter Family, and others.

There's not one but two outlaw songs here - the good old "Jesse James" (yes the one with the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard) and "Bloody Bill Anderson," which is about the life of an anti-Union guerilla fighter in Missouri during the Civil War.

And, don't you know, there's the sound of a prison chain-gang tune called "Eighteen Hammers." There are moaning call-and-response vocals, and the percussion sounds like shovels and hoes clanking on the ground.

With its buzzing kazoo, honking harmonica, and lazy rhythm, I assumed "Worry 'Bout Your Own Backyard" was some ancient jug band song. However, it's a Mathus original. And a fine one it is.

One of the jewels is Hart's "Deep Blue Sea," which he also sang on Otis Taylor's Recapturing the Banjoa couple of years ago and his own Jim Dickinson-produced album Down in the Alley a few years before that. Actually, Luther Dickinson's North Mississippi Allstars a few years back took a respectable crack at this folk tune - which has been done by Odetta, Pete Seeger, and who know how many others. But nobody sings it like Hart.

-Steve Terrell

All Music Guide

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.

-William Ruhlmann

Country Standard Time

In addition to being a wholly (and, at times, holy) successful effort in revisiting 10 traditional, jug band and proto-blues tunes on the songs' own rustic terms, this album by the South Memphis String Band contains some of the last work done by the late, great musician/producer Jim Dickinson in the form of a liner notes essay. Like everything else he was involved with in his restless years on earth, it's right on, nailing all three members of the band. He cites the "good natured slide" work of his Allstar son Luther Dickinson. He calls Jimbo Mathus "the singing voice of Huckleberry Finn." And, yes, Alvin Youngblood Hart is both "mighty" and a "force of nature."

The elder Dickinson, of course, wouldn't have wanted you to take his word for it. He'd want you to listen and catch the South Memphis by Way of North Mississippi Hill Country boogie flu for yourself, as the String Band resurrects numbers ranging from trad stalwarts Jesse James and Old Hen to the Mississippi Sheiks Bootlegger's Blues and the deep-roots gospel of Blind Willie Johnson's Let Your Light Shine on Me. A winning take on Deep Blue Sea (a gem that Hart tackled on the Otis Taylor-led "Recapturing the Banjo" record on 2008) is an early highlight, and a five-minute journey on The Carrier Line is a mid-album powerhouse. The acoustic threesome obviously adores these ancient songs - and Hart and Mathus each contribute an original that does nothing to derail the mood - but reverence never trumps rhythm. And nothing trumps guitar, banjo and mandolin united by a shared vision.

-Rick Cornell

Rootsville (Belgian music site)

- If you don't dig this, there's seriously something wrong with you .... Jim Dickinson (1941 - 2009)

Dat The South Memphis String Band met een stipnotering geplaatst staat in menig favorieten BRBF 2010 lijstje zal wellicht geen verwondering wekken alleen vrees ik dat er aan het trio composed of Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars, Black Crowes ), Alvin "Youngblood" Hart ( Grammy - winning bluesman) en Jimbo Mathus ( Squirrel Nut Zippers - guitarist, songwriter, vocalist, producer ) een zodanig hoog prijskaartje hangt dat men wellicht erg diep in de buidel moet tasten om de supergroup naar de Deusterstraat te halen ....

"Home Sweet Home" is het debuutalbum van the South Memphis String Band en dat the Mississippi Sheiks (a populair string band in the 20s & 30s - zie previous cd reviews "Things About Comin' My Way) oa met "Bootlegger's Blues" een zeer voornaam 'point of reference' is voor het beroemde trio staat buiten kijf maar ook Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers en the Memphis Jug Band loeren (figuurlijk) veelvuldig om het hoekje op dit excellent schijfje. The three friends, bound by Memphis and North Mississippi roots, slagen er in om op een werkelijk sublieme manier to preserve and revive the great jugband / stringband traditions of the deep South en zijn met hun passel of guitars, mandolins, banjo's, lap steel guitars , harmonica's en .... the clomp of hard - soled workboats on a wooden (podium) floor meer dan van harte welkom in de Lage Landen ook al is hun muziek a tradition that predates blues and jazz and is as American as apple pie .... Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jimbo Mathus and Luther Dickinson have each been traveling their own pats in their musical careers, luckily for us, they've met at the same crossroads ..... "Home Sweet Home" ???? Hallelujah - crank it up and make those floorboards rattle ! (SWA)

Southern Spirit Music Blog
(Italian music blog - check this one out in Google translate - it's a good one!)
March 5, 2010

Immaginate di passeggiare tra le incantevoli e caratteristiche stradine di New Orleans costeggiando il Mississippi, tra mille colori, odori e suoni in una atmosfera unica e assolutamente caratteristica... ecco , questa è esattamente l'atmosfera e la sensazione che si assapora ascoltando questo Home Sweet Home, album di debutto dei South Memphis String Band, un terzetto di eccellenti musicisti formato da Luther Dickinson, già membro dei North Mississippi Allstars e Black Crowes, Alvin Hart, vincitore di un Bluesman Grammy, e Jimbo Mathus.

Il sound che ci propongono questi SMSB è quanto di più vicino alle radici autentiche e più viscerali del blues e del country, con un chiaro riferimento alla tradizione musicale dei primi bluesman neri, un lavoro in cui si alternano struggenti ed essenziali ballate blues fino a sconfinare nel gospel e nel canto a cappella , e pezzi decisamente più orientati al country più autentico con banjo e mandolino a farla da padrone col chiaro desiderio e intento di riportare alla luce sonorità perdute ma che sono alla base di qualsiasi genere musicale sviluppato nel secolo scorso.

Proprio per le caratteristiche appena indicate è sicuramente un progetto musicale per palati fini e appassionati di un sound ben definito, non è certo un prodotto di facile ascolto, ma è una occasione davvero da non perdere per chi ama ritrovare sonorità perdute e per chi ama certe atmosfere e situazioni che rimandano direttamente il cuore e la mente alle tradizioni musicali del Sud degli States.

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Dinosaurs Run In Circles
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Killers From Space
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Jungle Jim & The Voodoo Tiger
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Delta Experimental Project
Vol. 3

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Fishing With Charlie and
Other Selected Readings

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Save Our Riverfront
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