Birds of Chicago, Luther Dickinson & the Cooperators | Maurer Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music | Folk & Country | Chicago Reader
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click to enlarge Luther Dickinson

Luther Dickinson

Tom Bejgrowicz

Birds of Chicago, Luther Dickinson & the Cooperators 

When: Fri., May 13, 8 p.m. 2016
Price: $27, $25 members
On Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook): Volumes I & II (New West) Memphis fixture Luther Dickinson essentially announces his promotion from upstart to veteran, revisiting a repertoire from all phases of his career—including the North Mississippi Allstars—and presenting his spin on American roots music. The low-key, rustic record was made in fits and starts with appearances from gospel great Mavis Staples and contemporaries like Jason Isbell and Alvin Youngblood Hart. Dickinson wrote all 21 tracks, but public domain might as well get cocredited, as melodies and snatches of lyrics are flush with the language of the blues and country music that courses through Memphis waters. The practice is familiar—it’s something everyone from the Rolling Stones to Luther’s brilliant dad, Jim, a Memphis producer and recording artist, has done over and over again. But in this stripped-down setting the younger Dickinson proves he doesn’t have the vocal chops or songwriting imagination to elevate these sessions elevate these sessions beyond the level of a self-mythologizing curio. It’s pleasant enough, especially when Dickinson taps into his raspy inner Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John) on a track like “Bang Bang Lulu,” but it fails to best hundreds of earlier Memphis records. With a touring band that includes bassist Amy LaVere, guitarist Will Sexton, and drummer Shardé Thomas, however, there’s still the promise that live renditions will bring out enough charisma and presence to make it all worthwhile.
— Peter Margasak
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