North Mississippi Allstars : 51 Phantom

It's nu-blues! It's rock 'n' roll!! And it's great...

It’s nu-blues! It’s rock’n’roll! And it’s great

If you go with the conventional history of rock’n’roll, you’ll have gathered that the blues crawled out of the Deep South, had a bit of a makeover and woke up one morning (der, der, der, der-dum) to discover that it had become pop music. Maybe it’s something to do with the apocalyptic times we live in, but there’s a definite shift going on back to the traditional music. First there were White Stripes doing their approximation of the inner-city blues, and now behold their MTV-approved cousins, North Mississippi Allstars.

’51 Phantom’ is the second album by Luther and Cody Dickinson – sons of legendary Big Star producer Jim Dickinson – and it bears the same tangential resemblance to the blues as
Blink-182 do to punk rock.

But let’s leave the sad ramblings about the authenticity of posh white kids singing the blues to one side, ‘cos the key thing about ’51 Phantom’ is that it’s a surefire hit as a rock’n’roll record. NMA have messed around with the basic building blocks of American music to create a vision of their own. The crystal-clear sound on ’51 Phantom’ is a million miles away from John Lee Hooker – Christ, it’s got drum machines on it – but a vindictive swagger straight outta Memphis.

Whether they’re getting all Old Testament thunder on ‘Storm’, going into Fleetwood Mac overdrive on ‘Leavin”, or doing the glassy-eyed, ramblin’ thang on ‘Up Over Yonder’, the Dickinson brothers are on to a total winner.

This is the blues put through the punk-rock mangle, with a lop-sided sneer from ear to ear. [I]”Dip your feet in the Mississippi mud”[/I], they bellow in unison on the truly awesome Mudhoney-go-to-hell closer ‘Mud’. Try it. You might like it.

Jim Wirth