Spencer Dickinson is a trio of multi-talented musicians who grew up admiring the sounds of Mississippi blues, New Orleans gospel, Memphis rock, and classic `70s jam band soul coming from the likes of Little Feat and Cream. Composed of Jon Spencer on lead vocals, guitar, bass, stylophone, and trombone along with North Mississippi Allstars brothers Cody Dickinson on drums and washboard and Luther Dickinson on guitar, bass, harmony vocals, and mandolin, the band, and their debut The Man Who Lives for Love, reflects their father’s generation of music more so than their own.
Like the way Pepper’s Ghost resurrected old David Bowie’s standards and Wolfmother revived classic Led Zeppelin’s tunage, Spencer Dickinson restores the `70s blues/rock sounds of The Allman Brothers as well as others from the same era. There is a strong Southern rock aura and a blues/gospel tinder on their album that regales of a B.B. King chasm and, amusingly, the soul-inspired chimes The Blues Brothers.
The exaggerated blues-toned vocals on “Sat Morn Cartoons” has a Mick Jagger swagger, while the guitar and tambourine rotations on “Zigaboo” have the blues-dapper echoes of Widespread Panic. There are Southern rock pleats on numbers like “That’s A Drag” and “It’s Not OK” with hand-me-downs from the Allman Brothers. The Elvis-style vocal touch ups add to the song “I’m Not Ready,” while the elongated vocal spreads over `70s blues/rock tinged guitar furls and harmonica segments on “Cryin'” recall John Lee Hooker. “Away Baby” harkens back to Bob Dylan in the meandering lyrics, as “Free” features swanky guitar motions and conversational vocals so familiar in blues/rock artists like Bo Diddley.
The piano and organ odes garnish the title track and “True” with a Lynyrd Skynyrd-style paring. The guitar traction on “Book Of Sorrow” expands and retracts like a rubberband cranked in repetitive cycles that stop the song from ever moving forward. The deep grooves in the instrument rotations and protruding guitar bends on “Whatcha Gonna Do” are repetitive and drone-like. It’s these repetitive cycles that create a recurring theme through the tracks, although the instrumental piece “Appalachia” highlights shimmering mandolin movements and brightly versed string arrangements that make the tune stand out from all the others. This is the only place in which the band sheds the `70s blues/rock aroma and garners a sound worthy of Spencer Dickinson’s progressive capabilities.
Spencer Dickinson’s debut album tenders 19 songs colored in various incarnations of `70s earth tones with “Appalachia” peering above the others. The musical talents of Jon Spencer, Cody Dickinson, and Luther Dickinson are based in what they have learned from their surroundings. Their album is more like a stepping stone than a lodestone for them, as they most certainly have more in them than these 19 songs.
North Mississippi Allstars – Shake Hands With Shorty
Blues Explosion – Damage
Allman Brothers – Eat a Peach