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Not so Blue

Next-generation bluesmen, the North Mississippi Allstars, aren’t afraid to get poppy.

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Luther Dickinson, though, said as far back as 1999, the group knew the third CD would be called “Polaris,” and it would present a whole new side to the Allstars’ music.

“Even back then we just knew that there was going to be a time for us to try and satisfy ourselves in a different way,” Dickinson said. “I don’t know, we’ve always been fans of third records. Back [in ’99] we just knew we would try to be ambitious with this one.”

The expanded musical vision of the North Mississippi Allstars — who formed in 1996 and quickly displayed their love for the raw blues of such Mississippi Hill Country artists as R.L Burnside (Duwayne’s father) and Junior Kimbrough — is quickly apparent with “Polaris.” The lead track, “Eyes,” sets the tone. Even though it begins with a familiar rumble, the tune quickly shifts into a sweet soul-tinged verse melody. The sound is warm and inviting, as opposed to the rough and rowdy feel of their previous work.

As “Polaris” unfolds, the growth of the band becomes even more apparent. The cover of Junior Kimbrough’s “Meet Me In The Studio” rolls along smoothly, echoing elements of Memphis soul and country blues. With “Otay” and “One To Grow On” a decidedly melodic pop element emerges, as Cody Dickinson, for the first time, steps forward as a singer and songwriter.

“He’s always been writing songs on his own and he’s always had songs,” Luther Dickinson said of his brother. “There were two songs while we were making “51 Phantom” that I thought he should include, but he wasn’t ready, “It took him awhile to get it together before he was ready to present himself.”

The direction of Cody Dickinson’s songwriting was no surprise to his brother, who said Cody has always had an affinity for pop.

“Cody has a real strong melodic sense that he brought [that’s] real musically rich,” Luther Dickinson said. “And the Allstars, we have a history of one-chord roots rock, so it was really fun. We were trying to build some contrasts for ourselves. It was time. We needed some songs with stronger melodies and different types of arrangements. Because you know, we’ll always stay true to our psychedelic blues roots, but it’s good to have contrasts.” S

The North Mississippi Allstars will play Alley Katz Friday, Oct. 10. Tickets cost $13 in advance at Plan 9 or at musictoday.com. At the door, tickets cost $15. Doors open at 9 p.m.

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