October 2, 2003

Test Spin: North Mississippi Allstars

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B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Jimmy Buffet, and even Lance Bass are all stars from Mississippi. However, only brothers Luther and Cory Dickinson, Duwayne Burnside, and Chris Chew can call themselves the North Mississippi Allstars.

With a name like that, you’ve got to be good, right? Not necessarily.

Actually, you could be mediocre, hide behind your album cover’s cryptic aesthetic, and bet on your state’s musical reputation to move your record.

Polaris, the Allstars’ third release, could easily be another band’s demo. Predictable, blues-inspired guitars and pianos paired against the more “eccletic” accompaniment of bassoons and oboes were probably the quartet’s attempt to sonically reinterpret the blues. Too bad that’s already been done better.

The album doesn’t really go anywhere until “One to Grow On,” the Allstars’ collaboration with the notorious Noel Gallagher, who also counts himself as a fan. Gallagher’s hollering mends the eerie gap between the vocal pacing and the orchestration heard in their previous tracks. Then, things start to pick up.

“Bad Bad Pain” harkens back to the days of the sultry jukejoints with its heavy guitars, thumping bass, and gritty vocals. Later, the dry harmonies and strings of “Polaris” as well as the rockabilly meets hip-hop sound of “Be So Glad” suggest the experimental direction in which the Allstars are heading.

It might take three more albums, but one day the North Mississippi Allstars may be among the Magnolia state’s future stars.

Archived article by Justin Finch