Luther Dickinson and the Sisters of the Strawberry Moon
New West Records
Luther Dickinson steps away from the spotlight on this project. Luther is known for the raging blues rock and Southern boogie of his bands North Mississippi All-stars and the Black Crowes. The best way to think about Luther’s contributions to Solstice is as host to a particularly uplifting Sunday social. Luther invited some very talented women to his Zebr Ranch Studio in the Mississippi hills. The studio became a warm and welcoming front parlor where the gathered shared songs of praise and wonder.
You can’t really have a Sunday social without songs of praise. Using just their voices, the Como Mamas testify and lift spirits on the gospel standards “Hold My Hand” and “Search Me. ” Birds of Chicago merges the sacred and secular with “Superlove.” The song casts a dreamlike spell, images of hula hoops and tears of grief contrast with the unending quest for love. I love the little details in the Birds of Chicago songs – the casual references to a french horn and Saskatchewan in evoking better times. They are all part of a plea to the titular, “Kathy” to come out of a horrid funk.
Sharde Thomas keeps things grounded on “Fly With Me,” a surprisingly cheerful song about seduction. Thomas modernizes the fife and drum tradition her granddaddy Othar Turner helped preserve. Sharde stays true to the spirit of the tradition while rendering the sound fresh and accessible to all.
Amy Helm (daughter of Levon Helm) brings us “Like A Songbird That Has Fallen,” a country song about hope and redemption. As great as all the guests are, I was most taken with Amy LaVere’s songs of childlike wonder. “Cricket (At Night I Can Fly) wonderfully explores little pleasures. “Hallelujah (I’m a Dreamer) is better than 20mg of Prozac at casting off gloom.
Solstice is an album that thrives on the little touches. The woody tone of a clarinet, the tones of a fife and languid violin make big impact out of small gestures. The Sisters of the Strawberry Moon offer a brief rest bit from the stresses of the daily grind. Listen to the songs, listen to the voices and let the feeling of being in circle of friends, sharing songs to nurture love and cast out the blues.