(L-R: Lee Baker, Jim Dickinson, Sid Selvidge, Jimmy Crosthwait, photo by William Eggleston)
The first time I heard the album Dixie Fried and really heard it was late at night in the Record Exchange in the Boardwalk at the top of Dickson street. Subsequently, every time I listen to something from the body of work that flows back to Jim Dickinson, it's with the awareness that I'm in danger of having my mind blown. That album was a hard record to find then, and for years it was just a tape of that and a copy of the even-more obscure Beale Street Saturday Night audio collage that represented, for me, a great pronouncement of how to do and feel and be with music, how to stare down history and have a damn good time doing it. Except that "staring down history" doesn't really get at the incredible warmth in his music, and saying that it represented (made real) in musical praxis the real possibilities of southern collectivism after the 1960s sounds too heavy, but that's what it did. For years, when he wasn't making records, we still knew he was down there, in North Mississippi, just south of Memphis. Thinking he might hear it was a good reason to keep making music.
Dixie Fried was re-released on CD a few years ago, and it's been kind of odd to see copies of this former talisman on sale for $8.99 on Ebay. Odd, but not bad at all since it also came with a veritable flood of new material, 4 new music records, a spoken word album, albums with and by his sons, Cody and Luther, all since 2002. I was really getting used to living in a world where James Luther Dickinson not only was around, but was making records, making lots of records, and playing music. I'll miss that. Condolences to the Dickinson Family and friends, and thanks to Jim for the music.