New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers – Vol. 2 | Album Review

New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers – Vol. 2

Stony Plain Records SPCD 1417

11 songs – 53 minutes

Stony Plain Records owner Holger Petersen popped opened a musical treasure chest last fall when he released New Moon Jelly Roll Freedom Rockers Vol. 1 – a stellar, “long-lost” collection of tunes that featured Charlie Musselwhite, Alvin Youngblood Hart and ex-Squirrel Nut Zippers front man Jimbo Mathus as well as late Hill Country legend Jim Dickinson and his sons, Luther and Cody.

A laid-back tour-de-force, it harkened back to a time long before COVID-19, when good friends could get together and play for a while when the tapes were rolling – not surprising when you consider that the material had been sitting in a vault since 2007, when the tracks were laid down during a jam at the Dickinsons’ Zebra Ranch in Coldwater, Miss., and since Jim passed two years later.

At the time of the sessions, Charlie and the North Mississippi AllStars were taking of a multi-day break in the midst of touring with Mavis Staples. And the tapes had been pretty much a matter of legend until Petersen visited Musselwhite backstage at the 2019 Edmonton Blues Festival, learned they actually existed and acquired the rough mixes from Luther shortly thereafter.

Luther and his engineer/partner Kevin Houston subsequently put the finishing touches on the material, which comes across imbued with the warmth of friendship and steamy summer nights. But there was so much quality material that, when Vol. 1 was released to acclaim last September, Petersen announced that Vol. 2 would soon follow.

Fortunately, this one picks up where that one left off – and blues fans didn’t have to wait that long for its arrival. The action’s augmented by Chris Chew on bass and Paul Taylor on tub bass.

Charlie takes the lead for a loping version of his original, “Blues for Yesterday,” to open the set with the three guitarists – Alvin, Jimbo and Luther – all getting space to shine. The ensemble delivers a little acid flashback as Hart takes the lead to cover Doug Sahm’s familiar “She’s About a Mover,” which is propelled by Jim on keys, before Mathus assumes command for “Searchlight (Soon in the Morning),” a medium-paced shuffle of his own design.

An unhurried take of “Oh Lord, Don’t Let Them Drop that Atomic Bomb on Me” follows. A dark, modern-day gospel number penned by jazz great Charles Mingus – gives Jim Dickinson plenty of space to shine, wringing emotion out of every phrase vocally and on the 88s with choral accompaniment before Mathus launches into his song, “Greens and Ham,” a modern tune with a strong Tin Pan Alley feel.

Musselwhite and the senior Dickinson tag-team “Messin’ with the Kid,” the Junior Wells standard written by Mel London. Charlie’s harp lilts throughout with Jim featured atop an unusual counterpoint rhythm before his original, “Black Water,” flows slow and deep like the river it describes. The feel goes pure country as Alvin dips into his own songbook for “Millionaire Blues (If Blues Was Money).”

The sound shifts north to Chicago as Jim puts an interesting spin on Jimmy Reed’s “Can’t Stand to See You Go” and Luther puts a Hill Country spin on the Earl Hooker instrumental, “Blue Guitar” before his dad dips into the catalog of the Mississippi Sheiks for “Blues Is a Mighty Bad Feeling” to close.

Available through most major retailers and strongly recommended for anyone who appreciates good times and good blues.

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