Jim Dickinson had a life most musicians and any dedicated hell raiser would be proud to claim. “Jim Dickinson was raised by wolves,” his handwritten bio for the Oxford American reads. “He speaks the unknown tongue, breathes fire, glows in the dark, and crawls on his belly like a reptile. He is the only white artist to appear on both Sun and Atlantic Records. He has worked with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and T-Model Ford — among others.”
For any lesser mortal, this would be considered hype. But for Dickinson, it's barely adequate. James Luther Dickinson was all that – playing piano on the Stones' '71 Sticky Fingers album, after referring to Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell as “that cocktail lounge playing motherfucker;” pairing Eddie Hinton on guitar and Andrew Love's sax with the reggae allstar rhythm section of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare when he produced Toots Hibberts' groundbreaking '88 release Toots in Memphis; producing and playing on Ry Cooder's '72 hit Into the Purple Valley; and as a member of the Dixie Flyers, backing artists including Hank Ballard, James Carr, Albert Collins, Aretha Franklin, Sam and Dave, Delaney and Bonnie, and Sam The Sham and the Pharaohs. He also produced Big Star, the Replacements, and helped sons Luther and Cody, producing and recording with them as The Mississippi Allstars.
Dickinson died in '09. The sessions here are taken from a '06 show at the New Daisy Theater on Beale Street in Memphis, and from a set at Mempis' '83 Beale Street Music Festival.
The Allstars: Luther, Cody, and bassist Chris Chew, back him on the first 8 cuts.
Dickinson is gruff and bellicose, but with a rough-hewn charm that that warms and smooths the rough edges. The Allstars are outstanding throughout, providing smooth accompaniment to Daddy Jim's well worn, leathery vocals. Luther provides a shimmery Ry Cooder vibe on “All Out Of Blue,”Greg Spradlin's country/soul original from '01,s ..and Twiced as Gone.
Spradlin's is prettier, but Dickinson's pain-wracked cover is the one that'll stick with you. Dickinson played on Arkansas guitarist Spradlin's album and was so taken by the guitarist talents that he asked him to read the eulogy at his funeral, requesting that the last line be "I'm just dead, I'm not gone."
“Hadacol Boogie” is rattly ode to a '40s era patent medicine with quite a kick due to its 12 % alcohol content. Invented by Louisiana State Senator Dudley J. Leblanc, the medicine became a household and often barroom staple and the song in its honor was first made famous by Bill Nettles and His Dixie Blue Boys in '49 and revived by Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Guy. Dickinson's version turns Luther loose for some jazzy rockabilly string pulling before Daddy Jim breaks out with a serious case of boogie-woogie.
When Dickinson takes on Gregg Allman's “Midnight Rider,” you really feel the road burn. He sounds so desperate and burned out it's hard to listen to. Luther has the toughest job, going down the Betts road without stepping in his deep footprints, pulling it off with some wiggly slide improvisation of his own.
One of the songs, "Redneck, Blue Collar," has been released before in a 2012 album from the same concert. "Ubangi Stomp" and "I Forgot to Remember to Forget,” are from an '83 concert featuring the Sun Records rhythm section band: Roland James, Stan Kessler, Cowboy Jack Clement, Billy Lee Riley, and J.M. Van Eaton with Dickinson.
“I Forgot To Remember To Forget,”written by bassist Kessler and Charley Feathers, was first recorded by Elvis in '55. But Dickinson's take on it sounds more like Jerry Lee Lewis, who covered it in '57.
Dickinson is as good as his word here, dead but still alive in spirit, sounding as mean and powerful as ever.