Luther Dickinson : Hambone’s Meditations

Written by Tom Speed

May 13, 2012

Luther Dickinson is a busy man. But between his full-time gig with the North Mississippi Allstars, his on-hiatus role with the Black Crowes and recent collaborations with The Wandering and the South Memphis String Band, he still finds time to dig up sounds from his native north Mississippi soil. The most recent fruits sown from that soil consist of his first-ever all instrumental solo album, Hambone’s Meditations

Following in the footsteps of his acoustic heroes John Fahey and, more recently, Jack Rose, Dickinson draws heavily on country blues, but also experiments with more elaborate and varied composition styles that provide a broader depth than the typical acoustic blues record. On “Breckenbridge Blues” for instance, a bouncing bass line propels a mesmerizing melody until an atonal foray heightens the tension before returning to the main theme. “Tallahatchie (Birds of The Moon)” employs ragtime rhythms while the album’s opener (and highlight) “Blind Lemon and the Hookman” is an intricate, multi-part opus.  Much of the work on Hambone’s Meditations owes as much to W.C. Handy as R.L. Burnside.  All six tracks feature only Dickinson’s guitar or dobro, save for the sounds of chirping birds on one of the two “ Old Gospel Medley” tracks that close the album

Dickinson’s output has always been the result of his constant quest to mine musical annals, and so it’s fitting that this collection of mostly pre-World War II type songs shares it’s name with a comic strip that ran in syndication after starting in the Memphis Commercial Appeal in the early 20th Century.

Dickinson the guitarist, the composer and the student are all on display on this accomplished recording. Within the nooks and crannies of the compositions here, there is great heart in this loving tribute to the many fellow maestros who have come before him. If Dickinson is so busy, it’s because he has so much still to learn and impart.

Hambone’s Meditations is out now on Songs of the South Records.