Hill Country Revue: Mississippi Ravers

Originally published in Guitar World, September 2009

Guitar World recently caught up with Hill Country Revue where they shed light on the Mississippi sound.

Cody Dickinson surrenders the secret of his new band, Hill Country Revue. “If you take a Mississippi hill country blues riff and play it with a heavier guitar sound, it turns into primal rock and roll.”

The sound speaks eloquently for itself on Hill Country Revue’s debut, Make a Move. The record features a hefty combo of deep blues and backcountry funk, gussied up with effect-laden riffs, sweet slide licks and the most greasy-but-elegant twin-guitar melodies since the Allman Brothers.

Hill Country Revue’s roots go back to the 2004 Bonnaroo Music Festival. It was there that Cody and his brother Luther’s other group, the North Mississippi Allstars, drafted friends (including now-deceased blues legend R.L. Burnside) from their south-of-Memphis home turf for a special Allstars set, subsequently released as the album Hill Country Revue. When Luther joined the Black Crowes in 2007, Cody and Allstars bassist Chris Chew countered with their new outfit.

Although Cody started out as a drummer, he’s played guitar since he was a toddler thanks to tutoring from his and Luther’s dad, roots music kingpin Jim Dickinson. When he stepped from behind the drum kit and grabbed a Les Paul, he was well ahead of the game. Adding Memphis six-stringer Kirk Smithhart allowed the band to up the ante with harmonized lines and slide guitar.

The special sauce comes from Gary Burnside, R.L.’s youngest son, who formerly played bass for the late hill country patriarch Junior Kimbrough. Cody explains, “I asked Gary to write a lot of the songs on Make a Move. As a result, we have authentic modern north Mississippi tunes like ‘Dirty Shirt’ and ‘Alice Mae,’ and those are hard to come by these days. I’m not a purist, but I feel like we have to honor that tradition. And once we have that nailed down, there are absolutely no limitations.”

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