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North Mississippi Allstars

A forgotten roll of film inspired a musical accompaniment, the North Mississippi Allstars’ new record Up and Rolling. Shot before the turn of the century, the photographs resonate with the music of four families from the Mississippi hills. The album captures the communal spirit upon which the band was founded.

In 1996, a photographer from Texas, Wyatt McSpadden, traveled to North Mississippi looking to photograph local musicians. Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson had grown up just south of Memphis and cut their teeth playing experimental rock & roll together, as well as the roots repertoire pioneered by their father, Jim Dickinson, a legendary producer (Big Star, the Replacements) and session player (Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan). Their feet were firmly planted in the North Mississippi mud and music scene, and they were excited to show Wyatt around their community, to introduce him to the musical families of Otha Turner, RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough.

Their first stop was Otha Turner’s farm. Then in his late eighties, he was the last living fife and drum musician in the hills—“and a friend to all,” Luther exclaims. “He looked sharp that day, still in his Sunday best and ready for a good time.” They all sat together on Otha’s fabled front porch, which was something like a classroom for the elder Dickinson brother. The two would sit for hours, the kid playing guitar while the old man made up lyrics on the spot. That’s how “Call That Gone” came into the world, decades before the Allstars recorded it for Up and Rolling.

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