Luther Dickinson | Vintage Guitar® Magazine

Luther Dickinson
Cody and Luther Dickinson: Wyatt McSpadden.

The North Mississippi Allstars have always moved forward. With an expanded lineup and new compositions, guitarist Luther Dickinson is in musical heaven. Set sail showcases Dickinson’s penchant for creating atmospheres with lush tremolo, ping-pong slapback, and masterful sliding. The strong chemistry enhances the sly songs on the album, but Dickinson is always rolling.

What do you think of Set Sail?
It was the first record since our debut that we had time to experiment and tweak. The flip side of that is that you get burned. The songs always come alive, live. We burn them and rebuild them. We never try to faithfully recreate the record. Any song we play is just a base and a framework for reinterpretation and improvisation. It drives some of our fans crazy. We have to tell them, “Hey, that’s the record.” (laughs) People like to learn an arrangement and stick with it, but my brother, Cody, and I are conscientious to a fault; we are always reinterpreting everything.

Having Lamar Williams, Jr. on the record was a great idea.

Men! I have sung with many great singers in the last 10 years, but I have never had a singing partner like Lamar. It’s a pleasure. He would send him songs and he would develop them. He added a lot to the record. We’re such good friends, and we’re like-minded. He is a superstar. We are all second generation musicians: his father was a bassist for the Allman Brothers and his musicianship is so blue. I feel a deep blues from Lamar. We all grew up watching our parents and following in his footsteps. We see the way and we know what to do as musicians.

How did you get William Bell to appear on the record?
I was involved in the movie take me to the river, and Cody was one of the producers. We did tracks with Booker T., Mavis Staples and Charlie Musselwhite. Cody produced a few songs for William Bell and Snoop Dogg, and they have been friends ever since. We wrote that song in William’s studio, it came out with a voice memo that I put on a grid and we started overdubbing it. The note is on the final track. William had the whole plot and story synopsis worked when we got there. He had the setting and characters from “Never Want To Be Kissed.” We shaped a song with chords using your words, phrases and freestyle melodies. His phrasing is crazy on the record because every chorus is different. We took it to a studio and did the horns Al Green style.

What guitar are you using for the slide?
I have become hooked on Fender Wide Range humbuckers. They changed my whole life. I’ve always been trying to electrify an open-tuned, fingerpicked, and slide-tuned acoustic guitar. I was thinking that Fred McDowell knows Jimi Hendrix. That led me down the path of my relationship with Gibson and hollow body guitars.

Now, I have a Strat with Lollar Regal pickups, which are Wide Range style, pure and clear sounding. You can hear every note, and they are silent. I love single coil pickups but they are loud. Most of the record was done on guitars that a friend and I are making, called Vibratone. They are Tele Thinline style with Lollar Regal pickups.

What are you playing on “Bumpin’”?
I’m using a Gibson ES-390. It’s part of that series of little 335s. I always found them funny. The 390 is completely hollow and has P90. Its beautiful. It looks and plays so perfectly. Gibson did it. It’s great for feedback and sustain.

You are playing against yourself with the slap.
Yes. Whenever I play solo, duet or trio, I like to have a stereo delay. My preferred setup is a clean amp with tremolo and reverb and a dirty amp. That is my favorite shade. I like to go mono if it’s a full band, but if it’s solo, duo or trio, I like to go stereo. I used a Boss DD-7 Digital Delay, but I have to have tap-tempo. I can’t stand that the delay is out of time. I love hearing the delay bouncing back and forth. It helps me keep up with time.

You are composing music for film.
I’m doing my first soundtrack for a movie about Eric Robert Rudolph, who is an American terrorist. He is so weird and inspiring. I’m so excited. I can use the whole collection of weird sounds that my father and I have collected all these years. I have guitars and keyboards scattered around in different tunings. I do not write for the photo. I am inspired by the keys and the tempos. So I write and write and write, then I throw everything at the image and see what sticks. Then I move it, adjust it and play with the image. It’s great.

This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of VG. All copyrights belong to the author and Vintage Guitar Magazine. Unauthorized reproduction or use is strictly prohibited.

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