The North Mississippi Allstars’ World Boogie Is Coming served at once as a recapitulation of their roots as well as a harbinger of things to come. The multiple and diverse partnerships which filled that record (including a guest appearance by Robert Plant) have now crystallized into Freedom & Dreams, the first full-length project along those collaborative lines.
Appearing with virtually no fanfare, except for selected tour dates subsequent to its digital only release, the recording is in keeping with that understated unveiling. The first two tracks “Away for Too Long” and “Back Together,” sequenced in such way they directly speak to this bonding and its underlying premise: fusing the blues with New Orleans sensibility shepherded by Osborne one of NOLA’s pre-eminent guitarists. Forged in Dockside Studios in Louisiana, Mark Howard’s production immediately commands attention as the sound is as spacious as it is present–the group could be playing in the room (or in your head on phones).
The mix, deceptively antique in its sophistication, contains detail is in keeping with the material. “Lonely Love” and the even more personal “Shining (Spacedust)” feature as much vivid detail in its lyric imagery as the fretboard solos shared by Luther Dickinson and Osborne, plus the restrained rhythm work of Cody Dickinson (not to mention his judiciously placed piano work). And oddly, or perhaps not given Anders Osborne’s eclectic composing pedigree (he’s written for Keb Mo’ and Tim McGraw), few numbers here are as directly blues-based as “Brush Up Against You,” where sinuous guitar lines sinuous guitars circle a syncopated Delta-derived beat.
As on most of that which surrounds this earthy cut, the band moves strictly at its own pace and it’s an unhurried one that allows Osborne’s feelings for both “Annabel” and “Katrina” to hang in the air with each line that he sings. “Kings & Peasants”’ offers amore oblique images hearkening a modified waltz shuffle, but what is unique here is that the group threatens to take flight into extended improvisation– but pull back at the last minute to conclude the cut. This might be disappointing if it weren’t followed by the airy gentle lilt of the acoustic/electric mix within “Many Wise Men.” then a modified second-line sojourn through the legendary James Booker’s “Junco Pardna. ” N.M.O’.s explicit homage to roots here wouldn’t carry nearly so much weight if it hadn’t been preceded by the ten numbers where the band transcends them.