In addition to being a wholly (and, at times, holy) successful effort in revisiting 10 traditional, jug band and proto-blues tunes on the songs' own rustic terms, this album by the South Memphis String Band contains some of the last work done by the late, great musician/producer Jim Dickinson in the form of a liner notes essay. Like everything else he was involved with in his restless years on earth, it's right on, nailing all three members of the band. He cites the "good natured slide" work of his Allstar son Luther Dickinson. He calls Jimbo Mathus "the singing voice of Huckleberry Finn." And, yes, Alvin Youngblood Hart is both "mighty" and a "force of nature."
The elder Dickinson, of course, wouldn't have wanted you to take his word for it. He'd want you to listen and catch the South Memphis by Way of North Mississippi Hill Country boogie flu for yourself, as the String Band resurrects numbers ranging from trad stalwarts Jesse James and Old Hen to the Mississippi Sheiks Bootlegger's Blues and the deep-roots gospel of Blind Willie Johnson's Let Your Light Shine on Me. A winning take on Deep Blue Sea (a gem that Hart tackled on the Otis Taylor-led "Recapturing the Banjo" record on 2008) is an early highlight, and a five-minute journey on The Carrier Line is a mid-album powerhouse. The acoustic threesome obviously adores these ancient songs - and Hart and Mathus each contribute an original that does nothing to derail the mood - but reverence never trumps rhythm. And nothing trumps guitar, banjo and mandolin united by a shared vision.