James Luther Dickinson

As a producer, Jim Dickinson has worked with such monuments--the Stones, Aretha, Big Star and, hell, probably Mozart--that you can't blame him for choosing a humble setting for his own work. But while this spacious set of Southern soul, front-porch country and juke-joint boogie could be called quaint, it's not only a flat-out pleasure to listen to, it's also a rare achievement: "roots" music that sounds authentic yet isn't impressed by its own authenticity. The songs are all penned by others, but Dickinson's bear hug of a voice injects just the right balance of humor and sadness into the wry "Red Neck, Blue Collar" and just enough sentimental lilt into the Muscle Shoals-style evening stroll "Somewhere Down the Road." And backed by a breezy combo including his sons Luther and Cody (aka North Mississippi Allstars) and bluesman Alvin Youngblood Hart, his soulful way around a keyboard helps make "Love Bone" gratifyingly funky and "Violin Bums" an evocative gem recalling early Tom Waits. Humility rarely yields such charismatic results.