North Mississippi Allstars: Electric Blue Watermelon

By Jessica King

“Electric Blue Watermelon” is as slick, dirty and fun as mud wrestling. It slides from country-blues hooks to boot-stomping roots riffs.

The album gets back to the territory of 2000’s rousing “Shake Hands with Shorty.” The sloppy songcraft of “Polaris” is somewhat forgiven if not forgotten.

I remember seeing The North Mississippi Allstars in Wisconsin last year. The band’s live show showed the effect of the its appearances at Bonnaroo. The jams meandered for hours, diluting otherwise good music. But put enough beer in anyone, and the most repetitive music can become utterly absorbing.

Here, the inherent structure of the album format keep sthe Allstars’ tendency for overly loose jams in check.

Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson form the backbone of the group they started in 1996 with bassist Chris Chew. These rollicking musicians add a number of guest performers to their latest release, including Lucinda Williams, and Robert Randolph.

From “Mississippi Boll Weevil” to “Stompin’ My Foot,” there is no question the Allstars are building on a uniquely Southern music tradition. The band adds current-day sampling and flourishes to old staples.

There are a few missteps though. For example, “Mean Ol’ Wind Down” suffers from a chorus of child-like voices, belying the gritty nature of the music elsewhere on the album.

With the South hit hard recently, the country needs a reminder that places like Mississippi hold more than misery and devastation. The rambling Allstars can spread a little down-on-your-luck hope, one foot-tapper at a time.