Luther Dickinson

John Wheatcroft is Mis­sis­sippi bound this month, as he’s hot on the heels of All­star blues and slide gui­tar supremo, Luther Dickinson.

Guitar Techniques - - Lesson: Blues -

Luther Dickinson is gui­tarist and lead singer with the south­ern blues rock band The North Mis­sis­sippi All­stars. Along with his brother Cody on drums and bass player Chris Chew, the All­stars are di­rect de­scen­dant of the blues tra­di­tion, sound­ing like a blend of Delta coun­try blues mixed with a lit­tle Rolling Stones; add a mea­sure of Duane-era All­mans along with con­tem­po­rary bluesin­spired pop sen­si­bilites of artists like Jack White and The Black Keys and you’ll get the pic­ture.

The son of pro­ducer and piano player Jim Dickinson, trivia buffs will be in­ter­ested to know that Jim played the piano on the Stones hit, Wild Horses. So young Luther was im­mersed in mu­sic from an early age and from his ear­li­est mem­ory al­ways set out to be a gui­tar player, mak­ing his record­ing de­but at the ten­der age of 14. In 1997 Luther landed the gig with RL Burn­side and the stone hasn’t stopped rolling since, per­form­ing with artists such as Beck, John Hi­att, Levon Helm, Ry Cooder, Robert Plant, Greg All­man and Lucinda Wil­liams.

In 2007 Luther was in­vited to join The Black Crowes as re­place­ment to UK based vir­tu­oso gui­tarist and record pro­ducer Paul Stacey. Af­ter the Crowes’ 2008 Re­lease, Warpaint, Luther stayed with the band, trav­el­ling the four cor­ners of the earth and back, when a com­bi­na­tion of the band’s de­ci­sion to take time out and in­creas­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity with the All­stars forced Luthier to de­vote his time to this project fully in 2011.

Luther’s style is es­sen­tially good-time rock and roll but with a supremely del­i­cate touch. He is ob­vi­ously a prod­uct of his in­flu­ences and wears them proudly on his sleeve, but he puts the pack­age to­gether so well that he’s a joy to hear. He has an in­fec­tious love for cre­at­ing mu­sic, and both his de­liv­ery and his tone are to die for. In his own words, Luther states “My whole style is based on trans­lat­ing acous­tic gui­tar tech­nique and re­sponse in re­ally loud rock and roll elec­tric gui­tar”. I think it’s safe to say that he has achieved his goal.

In the three-piece con­text of the All­stars and also when he plays with brother Cody as a duo, the distinc­tion be­tween rhythm and lead is re­dun­dant. Rather like Hen­drix, his solo­ing has such rhyth­mic propul­sion that you hardly no­tice that the rhythm part has dis­s­ap­peared and he can move be­tween these roles with flu­ency and flair. A slide ex­pert, Dickinson style is ar­guably less pro­gres­sive than Derek Trucks, whose in­flu­ences range far be­yond the con­ven­tional blues bound­aries. Equally how­ever, it could be ar­gued that Dickinson’s stylis­tic choices are more au­then­tic with a clearer con­nec­tion to the tra­di­tional blues slide supre­mos. Point­less com­par­isons aside, it’s no huge sur­prise to learn that like most great play­ers who do sim­i­lar but dif­fer­ent things, Derek is a huge fan of Luther’s play­ing and Luther is a huge fan of Derek’s.

There are five ex­am­ples this month. Treat them as the be­gin­ning of a mu­si­cal jour­ney, tak­ing each idea and see­ing what you can come up with. Why not record yourself play­ing these phrases and lis­ten back, per­haps the next day. Ask yourself what ar­eas you could im­prove upon, but be kind to yourself too, as it’s equally im­por­tant to recog­nise the things you like about your play­ing; your sound, your style and your mu­si­cal iden­tity. Have fun, and don’t be afraid to per­son­al­ize these licks and make them your own!

My whole style is based on trans­lat­ing acous­tic gui­tar tech­nique and re­sponse in re­ally loud rock’n’roll elec­tric gui­tar.

Luther Dickinson

Luther Dickinson: fin­ger­pick­ing his nice blue Les Paul

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