Memphis icon and master musician Jim Dickinson died Saturday at the age of 67. He was never a household name – not even close. But he was a behind-the-scenes player with enormous talent, and his various credits as a music and producer would fill pages.
The short version goes something like this:
He was a much in-demand session musician who recorded with the likes of Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones.
As a producer, he was at the helm for some of the best work by John Hiatt, Big Star, the Replacements, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Toots Hibbert and Ry Cooder.
His sons – Cody and Luther – are two-thirds of the North Mississippi Allstars.
“I got a couple of them. I got ‘Pearl,’ the Janis Joplin record, and I bought ‘Bringing It All Back Home.’ That was after I heard ‘Nashville Skyline,’ which my parents owned. I remember going out and buying those CDs. I thought that was so awesome.
As for Dylan, I didn’t really like ‘Nashville Skyline.’ I didn’t really understand it until later, but ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ is an amazing record.
‘Pearl’ was released after she died, but Joplin is just like a bomb on that record. It’s the sound of somebody just exploding on a record.
One reason that I was so attracted to those records is that you could definitely tell that those were real people, and there’s nobody in between telling you what to think of what this is. There’s nobody putting any spin on it.”
Josh Ritter headlines the MASS MoCA Music Festival in North Adams, Mass. on Saturday, August 15. The fest begins at 3pm and also features Ben Kweller, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Kaki King and Samantha Crain.
(Columbia, 2009): I always end up approaching a new Dylan album with palpable excitement leavened with just a pinch of fear of disappointment. “Together Through Life” is his 33rd studio album, and on the first couple of spins, it’s easy to listen to, but hard to hear. The basic blues format that dominates the 10 songs makes the music sound deceptively simple. Dylan’s sandpaper growl glides casually, almost effortlessly over the lyrics (all but one co-authored by longtime Grateful Dead wordsmith Robert Hunter), making them initially difficult to digest. Granted there’s no surreal, subterranean homesick poetry here (although he does manage to namecheck both Billy Joe Shaver and James Joyce in “I Feel a Change Comin’ On”), but there’s more than meets the ear. The album was alledgedly spurred by the album’s second track, “Life Is Hard,” which Dylan wrote for the upcoming film, “My Own Love Song,” directed by Olivier Dahan (who also helmed the Academy Award-winning “La Vie en Rose”) and starring Renee Zellweger and Forest Whitaker. Ironically, that delicately spun ballad seems to stand apart from the rest of the blues-oriented tunes. Produced by Dylan (pseudonymly as Jack Frost), the new album’s musical muscle is anchored by Los Lobos’ David Hildalgo, whose accordion playing slathers a wistful Tex-Mex feel over nuggets like the strolling “This Dream of You” and “I Feel a Change Comin’ On.” Tom Petty’s right-hand guitarman Mike Campbell also beefs up the band nicely, but let’s face it, this is a Dylan album, and the band really just serves as window dressing. “Together Through Life” won’t convert any non-believers, but the faithful – myself included – will be rewarded with repeated listenings.
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