Luther Dickinson has spent more than 30 years as a session player, singer/songwriter, record producer, and ringleader of the North Mississippi All Stars — so by now, he’s accumulated a contact list that would be the envy of anyone in roots-rock. He leverages his community to noble effect on Solstice, an Americana revue devoted to lifting up the sound of women’s voices. Credited to Dickinson and Sisters of the Strawberry Moon, Solstice never feels like a grand statement; from its patchwork of quirky material to its endearingly ramshackle, homemade production style, it’s an album that crackles with friendship and spontaneity, the sound of a loose and low-key jam session.
And yet its pleasures abound: You’ll hear charismatic turns from under-appreciated powerhouses like Amy Helm, Amy LaVere, the Como Mamas, Sharde Thomas, and especially the brilliant star wattage of Birds of Chicago singer Allison Russell, whose phrasing of words like “Saskatchewan” and “Stevie Wonder” emanates joy and are the very kind of grace notes that Solstice highlights so ably. Dickinson deserves credit for convening this line-up and for being egoless enough to relegate his own voice to some occasional harmonies, but even from his vantage point in the backseat, he’s clearly driving the project: Not many producers would have an American roots aesthetic porous enough to encompass the fife-and-drums blues of “Fly With Me,” sung with zippy energy by Thomas; the bordertown slow dance “Hallelujah (I’ma Dreamer),” crooned with moonlit romance by LaVere; the simmering organ and languid grooves of “Sing to Me,” a woodwind-enhanced slow burn from Helm; and the rattling, raucous a capella gospel of the Como Mamas’ “Search Me,” which ends the set the on just the right note: In stark celebration of the sound of a woman’s voice.
Published as part of Rooted & Restless | Issue 3