Luther Dickinson and Sisters of the Strawberry Moon are set to release their debut album Solstice on March 22nd via New West Records. The new all star collaboration features Luther Dickinson alongside Amy Helm, Amy LaVere, Birds of Chicago, Sharde Thomas, and the Como Mamas. Produced by Dickinson over four days at his family’s Zebra Ranch Studio in Independence, MS,Solstice follows his critically acclaimed and Grammy-nominated 2016 album Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook) Volumes I & II and Prayers For Peace, his 2017 album with the North Mississippi Allstars, his celebrated band with brother Cody.
Solstice finds Dickinson taking a step back from the microphone in order to focus his efforts behind the scenes and flex his muscles as both a producer and guitarist. The result is a 12-song set that stands apart in his extensive catalog, a collection that brings together some of the most captivating female voices in modern American roots music and filters each of their distinctive personalities through a singular vision of artistic community and musical exploration. It’s a wide-ranging collection that harkens back to the era of the traveling revue, when a rotating cast of entertainers would take turns fronting a house band for a series of dynamic and unpredictable performances. “Each singer brought a handful of songs to the table,” Dickinson says of the album’s diverse source material. “Sometimes it was an old tune they wanted to reinterpret or something new they’d written that felt right for the cast of characters at hand, but no matter the track, all of our colors ended up mixing together on a communal palette.”
While mostly recorded live in the studio, the band did invite a few special guests to contribute additional parts, including the fiddler Lillie Mae Rische (Jack White, Jim Lauderdale), organist Rev. Charles Hodges (Al Green, Willie Mitchell), and Grammy-winning artist and producer Alvin Youngblood Hart. Solstice was also mixed by Jeff Powell at Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis, TN.
“The whole idea of this album was to introduce a bunch of friends and get them to collaborate with each other,” says Dickinson. “I wanted to let the chemistry flow, to create an environment where everyone’s flavors naturally blended together and each artist could just be themselves. I think you can feel that freedom in the music. Most of the work was in getting the spark lit,” he says of assembling the all-star cast. “It was sort of like throwing a party. Once you manage to get everybody together, you can just step back and let it all happen.”
Today, PopMatters has premiered the song “Hallelujah (I’m A Dreamer)” featuring Amy LaVere. They say, “…the song is as uplifting as it is heartbreaking, as much of this moment as any other. In this way, Dickinson, LaVere and their cohorts have given us one of the rarest of songs (and albums), one that speaks to the heathen and the heavenly, the contented soul as well as the broken one.”
Relix Magazine also previously premiered the video of a stripped down live performance of “Like A Songbird That Has Fallen” featuring Amy Helm and Lillie Mae. Dickinson told the magazine, “Introducing Amy Helm and Lillie Mae was beautiful. Amy’s heart melted when Lillie Mae first sang harmony with her and she said ‘That’s the natural harmony I’ve looked for all this time.’ This is the intention of Sisters of the Strawberry Moon, to introduce new friends and watch their collaborative relationships grow and blossom.”
With nearly all of the album’s vocals recorded live in just one or two takes, there was no room for overthinking or second-guessing, only instinct and intuition. Commitment to living in the moment was key to keeping the album as cohesive as it is, no small task considering the broad array of songs and voices it encompasses. “Recording the album in the same place at the same time with the same people really helped glue the whole thing together,” says Dickinson. “It wouldn’t have worked if we’d recorded all over the map at different times. We had to physically be present to share in those moments together.”
“We believe music is a celebration of life, and folk music an expression of community and family,” Dickinson concludes. “Solstice is an artifact of our new friendship and musical fellowship.”
Luther Dickinson and Sisters of the Strawberry Moon have also announced their first ever tour dates in support of the album. The limited engagement will run seven evenings primarily at City Winery locations beginning March 11th in Chicago, IL. Please see all dates below.