Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hill Country Revue: aggressive dance music

Hill Country Revue was formed when Cody Dickinson and Chris Chew of North Mississippi All-Stars joined forces with three other musicians and cchief songwriter Garry Burnside. Via phone, Cody Dickinson compared this project with North Mississippie All-Stars, explained what is essential to every Hill Country Revue song, and stated what he would be doing if he were not making music.

Compare and contrast Hill Country Revue with North Mississippi All-Stars.
There are more similarities than differences musically. Performing is a whole new beast. In the All-Stars I play drums. In Hill Country, I play guitar and washboard. I feel liberated.

Describe the difference between those two, aside from your placement on stage.

Drumming is really about endurance, especially for a two or three-hour show. With the All-Stars, Luther handles the set list. With Hill Country, I have taken on more responsibility and leadership. I feel like I have more creative control. With Hill Country, I have to warm up on guitar. I spend half an hour to an hour just playing scales before the set. As far as the sound, Hill Country is more of a modern rock fused with traditional hill country blues. "Let Me Love You Baby" started out as a primitive blues tune. And that is Garry Burnside's influence. His music is direct and relatable. We're already working on the next record. The concept and the songs are there. It's going to be a stripped, raw, old-fashioned blues. But also new and modern. That's pretty unusual in 2009, that you could have authentic modern blues. Garry Burnside is the real thing. He is our creative guru.

How did the collaboration with Garry Burnside come about? What did he bring to the album that no one else could?

Garry and I have been friends for fifteen years. I grew up watching him with Junior Kimbrough and with his dad (RL Burnside). I was impressed with his songwriting ability when I saw him with his band Burnside Exploration. I saw him cut twenty songs in one day, and most of those were original tunes. He was one of the first people I called about Make a Move. We push each other and when we are locked in, we're unstoppable.
As for what he could bring to the album that no one else could, I would say the authenticity of his songs. And his knowledge of the hill country blues is unmatched. He is a walking encyclopedia. Playing bass for Junior Kimbrough and being RL's son, his knowledge of the blues is unparalleled for his age. No one his age has that amount of exposure with the blues.

On the band's website, Make a Move is described as nasty. What makes it a nasty album?

That's a good question. There is something provocative, a sexual tension that comes from our songs. You listen to these songs like "Let Me Love You" and they're not just about my girlfriend. They're about your girlfriend too. They're directed at all girlfriends. They are sexually charged. And when I play the electric washboard...that's more than just nasty. It's downright vulgar. [laughs]

What is essential to every Hill Country Revue song?

Lyrics that are relatable. The music has to be trancelike. The rhythm has to make backsides shake, but not like funk. This is aggressive dance music.

Who would you like to tour with any time? Who would you like to tour with, but haven't yet?

Kid Rock would be perfect for Hill Country Revue to tour with. We'd like to tour with bands that aren't necessarily in our genre: Kings of Leon, Zutons, someone like that. One of Jack White's projects would be a good fit for us. Allman Brothers, Widespread Panic, Black Crowes. We played with Warren Haynes and Gov't Mule. We played a weekend with Dave Matthews Band in Indy.

I saw North Mississippi All-Stars with Felice Brothers and Drive-By Truckers at House of Blues Anaheim.

I remember that show. We just played with Drive-By Truckers. That was great. Patterson Hood is the American songwriter right now.

What would you be doing if you weren't making music?

Man, that is a good question. I'd probably be six feet under. It's all I know. It's all I care to do. I can't imagine doing anything else. Well, I could be studying astrophysics, trying to prove string theory and the existence of black holes, but that's highly unlikely.

This is a reprint of an interview originally published on Examiner on 30 August 2009.

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