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Taken from Highway 81 Revisited (Jun 18, 2024)

CODY DICKINSON REVELS IN THE FREEDOM OF NEW SOLO ALBUM

by Michael Lello


Cody Dickinson. PhotoCredit: Bob Bayne
Cody Dickinson. PhotoCredit: Bob Bayne


Cody Dickinson's experience producing Lucero, Cisco Adler and the "Take Me to the River" documentary series could only prepare him so much for his latest client: himself. The North Mississippi Allstars drummer was a one-man band and production team on "Homemade," the solo album he will release on June 21.


"Self-producing is tricky. My dad used to say it was impossible," says Dickinson, whose late father, Jim Dickinson, was a legendary Memphis producer. "I could go on and on about Jim, he was something else. Self-producing, I actually like it. Collaborating is key, but with an album like this, it was a luxury to be able to play all of the instruments because it streamlines the process. The idea is intact. It makes it effortless to get going and capture the idea.


"At the same time, the technical side of engineering kind of gets me out of my head a little bit, where I'm concerned that the mic isn't clipping and the compressor is on and the right tracks are engaged, that way I can kind of sneak in to an exciting performance. I don't think about the music as much, I don't feel the pressure of the red light because the red light is always on."


While Dickinson said it was tempting to overproduce, "I tried to keep the performances exciting and try to keep them live. All of them are first and second takes."


The theme of "Homemade" is, not surprisingly, home. With a hard-touring lifestyle with NMAS and his other projects, Dickinson reveled in some time off the road.


"Look, this is the thing: my kids are so rock 'n' roll," he says. "They come on tour with me and they trash the hotel room. Johnny Depp's got nothing on my two-year-old, bro. They're just so fun and have this edge. 'Rock 'n' roll' is such a boomer term and an old-school concept, but there's something cool and edgy about my kids and they bring this whole new energy."


Having his children around for the making of the album flavored the material and he leaned into the comfort of being off tour. On "Goodbye Albuquerque, Tuesday Night," he is giddy about seeing some towns for the last time in a while.


"I think 'Goodbye Albuquerque, Tuesday Night' is the cornerstone of the album. When I got the line 'You won't see me in the morning, I will be leaving without a warning' ... God bless Albuquerque, I love the city, it's a beautiful city, but my priorities have changed so much."


Dickinson's daughter Mavis made a contribution to the song too.


"She was sitting in my lap and grabbing the mic and doing these sassy little ad libs, and I was like, 'I'm doing a track,' but I was like, 'wait,' because it was in time. It was live and unrehearsed. She just did it."



For the consummate collaborator, "Homemade" gave Dickinson "a creative license to do whatever I want."


"The freedom of being a solo artist is very exciting to me," he says. "I'm in a bunch of bands and play with the most talented people. My brother Luther Dickinson is one of the best guitar players on the planet. I play drums for Duane Betts sometimes and have that Allman Betts Family Revival thing I do. I also work in film. They all feed each other. And this music feels like it's only fair to frame it in its entirety in its own album. Plus, the North Mississippi Allstars were laser-focused on what we do and we've been doing it for over 20 years and we have a very specific thing that works. Luther and I used to try to force all the creative energy into this one outlet but now it's like this is Allstars stuff and this is separate. It's a healthy creative mentality.


"To be able to make my own music is incredibly exciting and creatively liberating, but it's not like I've been held back. There was nothing stopping me but myself and time. I wasn't ready, frankly, to put my foot forward like this."


Dickinson will support the album with a short run of headlining Northeast shows, including Thursday, June 20 at Hill Country Live in Manhattan, and some opening slots for The Mavericks. His band will include Memphis guitarist Aubrey McCrady and the members of Johnny in the Basement, a New York group he met while teaching at the Roots Rock Revival camp in Big Indian, NY. "The goal is to play all of the new songs. We've got a couple Allstars tunes peppered in there and also some from the RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough catalogs peppered in there."


The solo dates are shoehorned into an Allstars tour that runs until October with big plans for NMAS in the works for 2025.


"You're going to get the scoop on this. We have a brand new album that we've finished recording. I have to say it's my favorite thing we've ever done. We're collaborating with Joe [Williams] from Blind Boys of Alabama, Ray Ray Holloman (Ne-Yo, Nas, Robert Randolph) plays bass. We're coming up on our 25th anniversary. We were going to do a re-release that celebrates 'Shake Hands with Shorty,' but instead we're just doing a new record that celebrates that.


"I just feel like we're back. I love 'Set Sail' (2022), not to disparage it, but I feel like we're just back to form and I feel like even live we're lean and mean."




 
 

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