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South Memphis String Band - Home Sweet Home

Memphis International Records

In case you're suffering severe burn-out from the blues-rock you're accustomed to hearing, Home Sweet Home from the South Memphis String Band takes a listener back to the roots.

North Mississippi All-Star/Black Crowes guitarist Luther Dickinson, Memphis homeboy Alvin Youngblood Hart and Mississippi young blood Jimbo Mathus make up this unit. These guys play a type of music not garnered for critical praise or mainstream radio airplay. It's the type of music that can warm up a crowd for Abraham Lincoln.

Banjos, harmonica, guitars, kazoos and mandolins are the only tools used. It's an acoustic album. But it has a place in a rural setting, on a back-porch in the Appalachian hills with a jug of moonshine sitting at your feet.

All players take a turn at singing the tracks. "Eighteen Hammers" evokes the feeling of chain gangs working in fields with its vocals as the only instrumentation. The harmonies are rugged but perfect. Slick production would only ruin the atmosphere of these songs.

There's the essence of church revival distilled in "Let Your Light Shine On Me." Alvin Youngblood Harts' "Bloody Bill Anderson" based on a real murdering Southern rebel makes a direct beeline for the Civil War with Confederate banjo. Memphis old folk comes across in "Jesse James."

This material taps into the time warp of Great Depression America. "Bootlegger Blues" runs its train through the years of Prohibition. And title track "Home Sweet Home" with its mournful mandolin wraps up the project.

Although these gentlemen are rockers, you have to love them for unplugging their instruments and taking you on a musical back-roads which end at the Dixie highway. 

Reviewed by Gary "Wingman" Weeks.

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