Stick a passel of root boy nightcrawlers on a tour bus. Mash up some gutbucket blues and jangly rock. Turn up the roadburn, bring to a boil, then let it simmer ’til it gets good and crusty. That’s the recipe for a batch of New Moon Jelly Roll, baked on the road by Charlie Musselwhite and the North Mississippi Allstars while backing Mavis Staples.
Musselwhite hipped Allstars guitarist Luther Dickinson to some classic vinyl sides he should check out, and with the help of daddy Jim and cohorts Jimbo Mathus (Squirrel Nut Zippers, Knockdown Society, Tri State Coalition) and Alvin Youngblood Hart, the aggregation went into the Allstars’ Zebra Ranch Recording Studio in Coldwater, Mississippi, in 2007 to cut some tunes. The tapes were shelved until Stony Plain founder Holger Petersen found out about the sessions and had Luther finish production on the tapes and release them, with the first volume coming out in 2020 (ND review). Volume 2 is a bit bluesier, but still has plenty of oomph.
Musselwhite sets the tone for roadburn blues on his original “Blues for Yesterday,” reeling in the years: “Rolling down the highway / Rolling into the settin’ sun / Times was tough but we had fun.”
Mathus’ original “Searchlight” is very Muddy, with Charlie Little Walterin’ all around the melody, wailing like a lost soul celebrating a rebirthday, and Mathus, Hart and Luther Dickinson’s guitars knocking out windows and tearin’ down doors.
Jim Dickinson takes over lead vocals on Jimmy Reed’s “Can’t Stand To See You Go,” a rattly, loose-limbed ramble laid back so hard its about to fall over, Musselwhite hovering around overhead and behind injecting mellow harp bursts into the conversation.
Jim overrides his quiverin’ jelly roll piano on Charles Mingus’ “Oh Lord Don’t Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me” with a phlegmy plea for peace, a crusty chorus of radioactive protesters hoping not to soon be a celestial choir wailing behind him.
These Jelly Rollers map out a roadtrip that blows by all the notorious crossroads, paying homage to their devilish pursuer. Hopefully there’s still some fuel left in the tank for another journey soon.