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Review: North Mississippi Allstars let loose on 'World Boogie'

Brothers Cody and Luther Dickinson were raised on Memphis blues, soul, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll. Their late father, Jim, is an unsung hero of rock ‘n’ roll who worked with, among others Big Star, the Rolling Stones and the Replacements. (Jim’s interviews in the documentary “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me” are some of the film’s highlights.)

For nearly two decades his Grammy-winning sons have explored similar musical terrain while expanding the conversation — no small feat for a music born in these same woods nearly a century earlier.

Teamed with longtime bassist Chris Chew, the brothers' eighth studio album as the North Mississippi Allstars gathers many styles of primal American music, including Southern boogie, rural blues and electrified foot-stomping guitar music. Guests include Robert Plant, Alvin Youngblood Hart and a host of kindred area musicians. But it’s the sons who shine over these 17 songs through their assured takes on work by R.L. Burnside, Otha Turner, Bukka White, Willie Dixon, Junior Kimbrough and others.

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Fans of the Black Keys, the North Mississippi fife-and-drum music of Turner, the White Stripes and the primitive, funky blues of Kimbrough will find much to love here. It’s chaotic and expansive in the best sense: The Allstars attack many blues and southern rock ideas -- and let loose doing it. As a result, “World Boogie” feels like a journey. 

The highlights include the twisted stomp of “Boogie,” a traditional blues that features an archetypical riff, Cody’s marching snare drum and Luther’s distorted vocals shining amid handclaps and joy. The next song, “Get the Snakes Out the Woods,” is a freaky 37-second blues-noise experiment that leads straight into Burnside’s “Snake Drive,” a marvelous fife, drum and messed-up guitar combo.

At times “World Boogie” is haunting. You can hear the crickets and the air during “That Dog After That Rabbit.” The groove that propels another highlight, “Goin’ to Brownsville,” is minimal, which makes Luther’s guitar work shine brighter. As the song winds down, the sound of rain on a tin roof illuminates the rural south just outside the door. The 10-minute drive of “Jumper on the Line” should be “Whipping Post” for a new generation.

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The catchiest is “Meet Me in the City,” written by the late Burnside, which in the rock era could have been a Top 40 hit. Elusively simple and with a rolling momentum, it’s a perfect barometer. If you dig it, you’ll dig much of “World Boogie Is Coming.”

Listen below:

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North Mississippi Allstars

“World Boogie Is Coming”

Songs of the South Records

Three-and-a-half stars (out of four)

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