The following is a recent interview between Luther Dickinson and Jon Siembieda of Tahoe Onstage. Luther’s album “New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers Vol. 1” was released on Sept. 4 via Stony Plain Records. Along with Luther Dickinson, the album features Jim Dickinson, Cody Dickinson, Charlie Musselwhite, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Jimbo Mathus.
What made you choose to release “New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers Vol. 1” (which are old recordings from a potluck jam in 2007) right now?
Well, it was really all Charlie (Musselwhite) and the record company (Stony Plain Records). Charlie played the recordings for them and they really loved it and wanted to put it out. They took care of everything. This was all right before the pandemic, and now it’s here.
How are you holding up in COVID quarantine? Are you staying busy? Any new songs?
Oh yeah, I’m constantly writing and working on new stuff. (Luther is playing guitar as he’s talking on the phone.)
Obviously, this is a bit of a lost year for the music industry, particularly for live music. What’s the first place you want to play/miss the most after all this is over?
Anywhere outside! I love to play outdoor gigs. I was just thinking about that, about how much I was looking forward to playing outside this summer, and now we can’t, but I’m excited for whenever we’re able to again.
What gear was used on this album? Anything unusual or of note? What guitars did you play?
I mostly used an old Silvertone amp with a 175 (Gibson). The thing about these recordings that was tough to work with was that we were too loud. It was a party! We just set up live with the vocals and everything and went for it. I’ve always felt like you get the best takes in the studio when you’re tracking the vocals live, setting them up for the chance you might keep the takes if everyone gets what they want. We wanted the bleed, that’s part of the magic of it all, but we were too loud, and it was hard to mix out the drums from the piano mic and my guitar out of the vocal mic, as an example. With those old Howlin’ Wolf recordings and the albums from that era, they played everything live and there was bleed, but they were much quieter and could hear each other at a low volume.
What was it like basically growing up in the studio with your brother and your dad as a legendary producer, and what did you learn musically? For instance, I love the Jim Lauderdale album you and Cody made with Jim and Robert Hunter’s lyrics. Any producing on the horizon?
Oh yeah, I love to produce, and we’ve been around it our whole lives. Jim Lauderdale is amazing, and that record we made with him and (Robert) Hunter (who remained involved every step of the way) was incredible. Jim can write the greatest lyrics you ever heard right on the fly in the studio. I never saw anything like it.
You’ve jammed with many, including several iconic bluesmen. Who would you like to play with that you haven’t in your ultimate potluck jam?
I’d love to jam with Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. Man, that guy is so talented. Also, I’ve been listening to a lot of Prince, Nile Rodgers, Pharrell, and rediscovering the Beastie Boys’ “Check Your Head,” which was the first album they played the instruments on. It’s so raw. Yeah, I definitely want to jam with Nile Rodgers, too. That guy is unbelievably creative with what he can play. Also, Buddy Guy.
A tragedy not to be overlooked this year was the loss of Carl Dufrene. Any thoughts you’d like to share of your best memories of Carl?
That was awful. The thing about Carl was that he was such a sweet and generous person. He was always offering you whatever he could. He was known for always doing random acts of kindness. I first met Carl when he was playing bass for Anders Osborne, and I sat in at a show. Carl had my back and was great about always giving me subtle cues so I knew what to play, but he didn’t make it obvious to anyone else. He also was the first guy who played bass with us (North Mississippi Allstars) in a long time that wanted to play every gig. The guy lived for music.
Any other nuggets in the archives we may see one day?
Yes, besides Volume 2 (of “New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers” due out Spring 2021), I have an unreleased album with David Hood and Patterson Hood, and we also have an album to finish of songs our dad wrote with Ry Cooder back in the 1980s.
“New Moon Jelly Roll Rockers Vol. 1” is available worldwide via Stony Plain Records. Check it out!
— Jon Siembieda
Album review: Zebra Ranch potluck jam cooks up ‘New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers, Co. 1.’
Concert review: Dickinson brothers hand Carl Dufrene the guitar to close out epic NMA performance at Lake Tahoe.