Record Review - 1 December 19 2001

I'm in the mud and the mud's in me, sings the North Mississippi Allstars' Luther Dickinson on the closing track of the band's sophomore album. And it sounds it. Over a riff so swampy you can practically hear the mosquitoes buzzin' in Luther's distorted ZZ Top-styled guitar, the trio redefines backwoods blues rocking for a generation never exposed to Creedence, let alone J.J. Cale or Slim Harpo.

Few young blues bands have acquired press clippings as thick and as glowing as the North Mississippi Allstars. But they've worked hard to get there, tirelessly touring on the strength of their Grammy-nominated debut and collaborating with steel-guitar master Robert Randolph on the thrilling instrumental album The Word. The follow-up is more concise than their jam-heavy live shows, as brothers Luther and Cody, along with bassist Chris Chew, plow through amplified power-trio bluze-rawk with emotional and regional roots Cream would have killed for.

Incorporating the nimble picking of Ry Cooder, the primitive howl of R.L. Burnside, the fluid runs of Jerry Garcia, the grunting N'Awlins funk of Little Feat, the religious lines of Randolph and the uncut rock adrenaline of Gov't Mule, the Allstars make music that could only have been raised and nurtured in the Deep South. Although only in their 20s, they sound like grizzled pros. Luther's hoarse voice groans/moans, "Don't know where I'm headed, don't know where I'm from," like he's been wandering the road for decades.

By retreating to the blues' stark past while pumping up the volume, the Allstars send us on a rattling 51 Phantom train down to their grubby stomping grounds. One listen and the mud will be in you, too.

North Mississippi Allstars play Mon., Dec. 31, at the Variety Playhouse.??