John Wheatcroft is Mississippi bound this month, as he’s hot on the heels of Allstar blues and slide guitar supremo, Luther Dickinson.
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: fingerpicking his nice blue Les Paul