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North Mississippi Allstars
Alternative Folk

The punk-blues movement was born in the mid-'90s when the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion traveled to Mississippi to record R.L. Burnside's ASS POCKET O' WHISKEY. The recording was so in-your-face that many blues aficionados felt assaulted by the CD. Purists won't take to the North Mississippi Allstars' SHAKE HANDS WITH SHORTY either -- too bad because this 21st-century blues trio is as refreshing as a frosty beer on a steamy afternoon. The trio -- guitarist Luther and drummer Cody Dickinson (sons of producer Jim Dickinson)> and bassist Chris Chew -- pay proper homage to Burnside's influence by opening with one of the guitarist's signature tunes, "Shake 'em on Down," more rockin' but less raunchy than the original. From there the band takes off through Cream territory with stops at jug band ease and Hendrix-like psychedelia. Luther Dickinson's impressive guitar work moves from a raging rock solo on "Drop Down Mama" to mesmerizing Burnside-styled picking on "Po' Black Maddie" and crystal-clear bottleneck slide on "Drinkin' Muddy Water." Mississippi neighbors Cedric and Garry Burnside, Otha Turner (whose much-lauded CD EVERYBODY HOLLERIN' GOAT was produced by Luther), and blues guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart are among the host of artists who sit in, but the set still has a lean, lanky feel throughout. By the time SHAKE HANDS WITH SHORTY ends with the extended> jam "All Night Long," the listener not only feels like he has pumped the hands of everybody in the juke joint but also has had way too much whiskey and danced himself into a major sweat. Roberta Penn

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