Luther Dickinson’s Life Story

Read about Luther Dickinson’s new album ‘Blues & Ballads…’


Luther Dickinson – photo Jim Jacob




A double album from Luther Dickinson – Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook: Volumes I & II) is due February 5 2016 on New West Records.  

luther dickinson blues & ballads

In what looks like an interesting and ambitious project, the new release is set to feature twenty-one tracks, spanning this talented Memphian’s impressive career, as well as new songs.  The collection will cover material from the band the North Mississippi Allstarssongs learned from friends and family, tunes passed down to him by heroes and mentors, all presented in a similar, stripped down palette of voice, guitar, drums, some blues fife and Beale Street piano.

“This acoustic collection of songs interpreted simply, recorded live, solo or with a small group of friends reflects my relationship between music, songs, the written word and legacy,” Dickinson explains.  “Blues & Ballads celebrates the American oral tradition of blues and folk songs, not only being passed down and evolving but being transcribed (the original recording technique) and entered into the discipline of written sheet music and songbooks.”

The vinyl version of the album will come with a limited edition songbook complete with transcriptions for each song. Vinyl, CD and digital pre-orders are available now here.

You can audio stream the atmospheric album opener, “Hurry Up Sunrise,” here.  This song Dickinson worked up from tapes of the late hill country blues fife-and-drum-master Othar Turner,

“Otha and I would spend evenings on his porch, playing hill country riffs on guitars, drinking moonshine, and shooting the breeze,” reveals Dickinson. “Otha would berate us for playing without feeling, but would reward spirited playing by singing along, improvising his corn field blues. Only his corn liquor got the neighborhood as excited as Otha busting into song, throwing his hat down, jumping up, and dancing. Otha passed at age 94, after which I transcribed a few recordings of these nights. ‘Hurry Up Sunrise’ is a collection of his improvised couplets. My father recognized the song as a duet, and it was a pleasure to record the song with Otha’s granddaughter Shardé Thomas.”

Dickinson is joined on the album by a host of friends including Jason Isbell, Jim Lauderdale, Amy LaVere, Shardé Thomas, JJ Grey, Charles Hodges, Jimbo Mathus and Mavis Staples who helps with “Ain’t No Grave,” a song Luther wrote after the passing of his father, the late, great music maverick, Jim Dickinson.  It was this performance with Staples that sent Dickinson down the road toward Blues & Ballads, which he describes as a community project:

“This is the most casual record I ever made. I’d record one or two songs at a time, very effortlessly and unstrategically. Then I started recording songs with different groups of friends, wherever I happened to be.”

Where he was, included the Dickinson family studio in Mississippi, Zebra Ranch, Memphis’ Sun Studio and Royal Studios as well as locations in Chicago and Nashville.

DSC02316 Luther Dickinson NMA.JPG


A lifelong lover and collector of songbooks, the vinyl version of the album fulfills a longtime desire of Dickinson:

“The vinyl art includes my dream come true – my songbook, a printed collection of my tunes (my life), transcribed and made to look legitimate. The limited pressing makes the legitimacy fleeting and as it should be: rare and underground. I represent the Memphis underground and the mid-south region’s music. This art is not for the masses. It is meant to wither and fade and then rise from the ashes again and again, evolving and mutating.”

luther dickinson



Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook: Volumes I & II)

Track Listing:
Volume I

1. Hurry Up Sunrise
2. Up Over Yonder (featuring JJ Grey)
3. Bang Bang Lulu
4. Moonshine
5. Jackson
6. Mean Ol’ Wind Died Down
7. How I Wish My Train Would Come
8. Ain’t No Grave (featuring Mavis Staples)
9. Let It Roll
10. My Leavin’

Volume II
11. Horseshoe (Reprise)
12. Highwater (Soldier)
13. And It Hurts
14. Storm
15. Mojo, Mojo
16. Ol’ Cannonball
17. Devilment 18. Blow Out
19. Mayor Langford Birmingham Blues
20. Shake (Yo Mama)
21. Horseshoe

Read about Luther Dickinson’s new album ‘Blues & Ballads…’


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Author: Rob Dickens

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