In the beginning, a father passed away and a child was born. Luther and Cody Dickinson lost their father, Memphis music legend Jim Dickinson, only months before Luther became one. Jim had always told them, “You need to be playing music together. You are better together than you will ever be apart.” Coincidentally, the Dickinson brothers were not together when Jim passed. At that moment, they were both off on their own, Luther with The Black Crowes and Cody with the Hill Country Revue. So in the spring of 2010, the North Mississippi Allstars reformed and went into the Zebra Ranch, the familys recording studio where they had spent countless hours together with their dad, to create a record that could help them cope with the loss, and, at the same time, rejoice in his honor. The first line of Jims self-written eulogy was, “I refuse to celebrate death.” Luther, Cody and Chris Chew took heed and aimed to celebrate life instead; and the songs for the new record, Keys To The Kingdom (Songs of the South), came pouring out of their souls.
“As is our family’s tradition, we gathered in our homemade studio and recorded,” Luther says. “We carried on as we’ve been taught and dealt the only way we know, by making music. Our dad used to say that production-in-absentia is the highest form of production. The credits read: Produced for Jim Dickinson. Keys To The Kingdom is definitely our finest collaboration.”
Very close friends of the family joined the band in fellowship to see NMA through this deepest of moments, among them Mavis Staples, Ry Cooder, Spooner Oldham, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Gordie Johnson and Jack Ashford (Motown Funk Brother tambourine player). All had collaborated with Jim and the boys over the years at one point or another and feel a deep kinship with the Dickinson family to this day.
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