(Yep Roc Records, CD)
Spencer-Dickinson (not to be confused with the Rhode Island-based politician) is the nom de plume of punk-blues shit disturber John Spencer and Luther and Cody Dickinson of r&b/jam crossovers the North Mississippi All-Stars. Their debut, The Man Who Lives for Love, is a collection of chicken-shack skronk and lowdown soul that's nowhere near as strong as it should be.
The disc sounds tossed-off, the kind of thing a group of ornery meth-heads might crank out just before pawning their instruments. Spencer is the king of trash-blues, so some irreverence is expected. But here he sounds bored to the point of distraction, with half-baked riffs serving as meager support for his nihilistic back-porch rants.
It's tough to tell exactly what the bros. Dickinson bring to the table. There are some reasonably groovy drum parts courtesy of Cody, but Luther is completely overshadowed by Spencer's circus-carnie personality.
"I'm Not Ready" is an undercooked mishmash of Delta shuffle and punkabilly. The fact that it sounds like it was recorded in a broom closet doesn't help matters. I'm all for creative lo-fi recording, but not as a device to mask weak songwriting.
The best tunes come towards the end of the album. The title track superimposes a salacious Mick Jagger-esque vocal upon muscular Motown strut, to decent effect.
Subsequent cut "True" continues the Stones vibe, with scruffy licks straight out of the Keith Richards playbook. Choice piano turnarounds lift the song out of the sonic morass that threatens to consume many of the other numbers.
"Whatcha Gonna Do" contains swampy slide guitar and leering vocals, but you've no doubt heard it before, and better. Maybe even by Spencer himself.
I'm sure the album was a blast to record, but it's hardly essential. Perhaps it'll inspire a handful of kids to check out the likes of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, both of whose key material is still in print.
Although The Man Who Lives for Love leaves a lot to be desired, it will likely sound more vital live. Judge for yourself when Spencer-Dickinson open for the North Mississippi All-Stars at Higher Ground on Tuesday, Nov. 7.