In keeping with its pre-release announcement, The North Mississippi Allstars new studio album Hernando gets off to an extremely powerful start. It’s to the credit of the self produced trio (in collaboration with Cody and Luther’s famous father Jim Dickinson) that the variety included on Hernando ultimately emphasizes the band’s forte.
That specialty is a heavy blues-rock approach offered right up front via the corrosive guitar on “Shake” that carries right on over to “Keep the Devil Down.” Luther Dickinson’s molten rhythm patterns recall Eric Clapton as he moved from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers into Cream. Yet the nouveau-psychedelic guitar on the later and “Soldier” owes as much to the Mississippi delta as Marshall amps and demonstrates even further how Dickinson is developing into an extraordinarily impressive guitarist.
The ten-second intro to “Soldier” hints how fluid the NMAS rhythm section is. Drummer Cody Dickinson and bassist Chris Chew keep the trio in brisk motion– never merely plodding along– and if it’s not clear at this point how crucial that is to the band’s sound, pay close attention to the rideout of the track as all three instrumentalists interweave to propel themselves and each other.
The changes of pace on Hernando are varied forms of the blues. ”I Would Love to Be A Hippy,” is a modified shuffle, its lyrics (and Chew’s vocal) rife with tongue-in-cheek sexual innuendo that’s always been a vital element of the genre. “Mizzip” is quasi-ragtime sung by Cody and dominated by piano: a track that’s over almost as it begins; it serves the purpose of emphasizing the strength of what’s preceded and what’s yet to come.
"Come Go with Me” might well be an outtake from the NMAS debut Shake Hands with Shorty—which might suggest stagnation if the performance wasn’t so vibrant. ”Rooster’s Blues” signals an almost imperceptible shift back into the heavy music at the start of the album, but then the threesome offer a curveball in the form of “Long Way From Home,” its ghostly air created through echoed and harmonized vocals played off a distinctly jazz guitar tone combined with the bell-like clarity of more acoustic piano.
It is unlike anything else on the disc or in the entire North Mississippi Allstars discography and begs to be replayed immediately…as with the rest of Hernando.