Jungle Jim & The Voodoo Tiger is the third studio album in 34 years from pianist/vocalist/bandleader/producer/pianist/session player/raconteur/cultural iconoclast Jim Dickinson and his Memphis International debut. Actually, the album, like the two that preceded it, is credited to Jim’s artist alter ego, James Luther Dickinson.
Over the course of the past 40 years, Dickinson has worked in the studio with such artists as Ry Cooder, the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Arlo Guthrie, Sam & Dave, Big Star, Tony Joe White, Bettye Lavette, the Replacements, Duane Allman and many more. Jungle Jim & The Voodoo Tiger was produced by Dickinson and Memphis International’s David Less, the two having earlier collaborated in producing Alvin Youngblood Hart’s Grammy® nominated Down In The Alley and Harmonica Frank Floyd’s The Missing Link for the label. Before all this, Jim was a member of The Jesters, whose “Cadillac Man” was the last record released on Sun Records while Sam Phillips was still running the show.
Jungle Jim & The Voodoo Tiger is a set of songs that Dickinson has collected over the years in, as he puts it, “the jukebox of my mind,” plus some new songs by writers he greatly admires. Backing is by sons Cody (drums) and Luther (guitar) of North Mississippi Allstars fame, along with Alvin Youngblood Hart (guitar). Bass duties are shared by Paul Taylor (electric bass) who was part of the band DDT with Dickinson boys and Amy LaVere (stand-up bass) whose own album This World Is Not My Home has been making waves of late plus a number of other top shelf Memphis players. Jim Dickinson handles vocals and keyboards. It’s an album that knows no genre or category but is sure to be a favorite of Americana radio. Dickinson expects to tour upon the release of the album with Cody and Luther’s backing, bringing their skewed version of “family values” to the great American road.
Recorded late last year in less than two weeks at the Dickinson family’s Zebra Ranch studio in rural Independence, Mississippi, the album songs range from rollicking barrelhouse (“Hadacol Boogie,” “Rooster Blues”) to stinging social commentary (“Red Neck, Blue Collar,” penned by legendary folkie Bob Frank) to contemplative and atmospheric (“Violin Burns”). Song highlights include “Somewhere Down the Road,” written by Chuck Prophet from Green on Red and a honky tonkin’ rendition of the Memphis classic “White Silver Sands” with the sly soul of “Love Bone” and “Can’t Beat The Kid.”
Says Jim Dickinson, who is often James Luther Dickinson’s harshest critic: “I’m real happy with it; it’s a damn good record for eleven days!”
Ry Cooder contributed comments that are part of the CD artwork for this, the latest release of a man he’s proud to call his “personal friend.” Cooder writes of the Jungle Jim experience: “Take a seat, listen in, find your place.”
An over view of the songs found on Jungle Jim & The Voodoo Tiger follows
“Red Neck, Blue Collar” – Co-producer David Less asked Jim if he’d like to include a protest song in the album, something all Memphis International artists are encouraged to do. This one by Bob Frank immediately sprang to mind and changed the direction of the album. It has been conceptualized as an album of old tunes that had been playing in Jim’s head but now the floodgates were opened to newer material, as well.
“Truck Drivin’ Man” - Jim says, “It was the first song that I knew I wanted to record for this record and sort of set the tone.” He’s included a third verse that is not heard in most versions.
“Violin Bums” - He calls this “a little vignette from a musicians point of view.” The song had not been, heretofore, recorded but a demo that Jim had from writer Colin Wade Monk for a number of years was the source. “Cody says it’s the best track he’s ever played on; I don’t question him.”
“Out of Blue” – The song was written by Greg Spradlin who had a band from Arkansas called The Skeeterhawks. Says Jim,”Any song that mentions Jesus and Ray Charles in the same verse has something going on.”
“Love Bone” – The song has been associated with Johnnie Taylor and Tyrone Davis and the latter version is the inspiration. “I did it as a tribute to Teenie Hodges; it’s his arrangement.”
“Hadacol Boogie” - “I associate it with Eddie Bond who used to have a Hadacol radio 1950s. Eddie had a comic sidekick named Droopy Duck who asked about the name and Eddie would tell him ‘they hadda call it something.’”
“Rooster Blues” - This is an up tempo version of the old blues song. Jim notes that his version is based on Ronnie Hawkins’. “He’s one of my major influences.”
“White Silver Sands” – Jim recalls Brother Dave Gardner’s original and muses, “’Watch the pinto ride the pinto across the Pampas trail’ -- who wouldn’t want to sing that line?” Jim offers no explanation for the Argentine setting of the song. The mystery continues.
“Can’t Beat The Kid (Part 2)” – The song was written by Muscle Shoals legend Eddie Hinton. It was recorded by John Hammond, Jr. but Jim notes, “I remember it as a demo. I called it ‘Part 2’ because some of the lyrics/words aren’t the same as the Hammond version.”
“Down The Road Somewhere” – This is the song from Green On Red’s Chuck Prophet, a band Jim produced. Of Chuck he says, “He’s one of my favorites and this is one of the better songs he’s written. Chuck sings it in third person singular and I do it third person plural.”
“Samba de Orfeo” – It’s from the iconic film Black Orpheus; says Jim of the album closer, “After the long dark night you, gotta make the sunrise. The version of the song we’re referencing occurs at the end of the film where the children greet the sunrise.” He saw the film in a movie theater when he was a college student at Baylor in the 1950s where he met a fellow student who had been a missionary in Brazil. “He showed me the ropes.”