Watch Luther Dickinson at the Paste Magazine East Austin Block Party Presented by Ilegal Mezcal

Music Features Luther Dickinson
Watch Luther Dickinson at the Paste Magazine East Austin Block Party Presented by Ilegal Mezcal

Luther Dickinson joined us at Coral Snake Austin for our Paste East Austin sessions, playing four songs from his newest album, Magic Music For Family Folk, released last November via New West/Antone’s Records. Produced by Dickinson, it features renditions of favorite songs from his childhood by The Meters, The Staple Singers, John Lee Hooker, Mississippi John Hurt and more.

Full Session

For his first song, Dickinson played “Are You Sure” by the Staple Singers. Dickinson shared that this was originally a record he made for his children that he was not planning on releasing. But then they ended up singing on it, and with friends joining in, it became a shared labor of love. Other than Dickinson’s own children, the album also features Yola, Allison Russell, Lillie Mae, Sharde Thomas and Sharisse Norman.

“Are You Sure” (The Staple Singers)


The beautiful instrumentation in the song leads us to Dickinson’s voice, warm and knowledgeable, as he sings about reflection on your actions and on the little places where we can add more kindness around us. It’s clear why Dickinson wanted to add this song to Magic Music since Mavis Staples herself taught it to him. Speaking of how the relationship with Staples began, Dickinson said that as a kid he was obsessed with a Staple Singers song “Freedom Highway.” Despite playing the song many times, there was a pair of lyrics they could never decipher, leading Dickinson’s mother to contact Yvonne Staples directly and getting a lyric sheet faxed over. Dickinson further spoke about “Freedom Highway,” a movement song, and how often those songs can stay relevant for years after and to different subject matters.

“A lot of my current music has breadcrumbs just in case my girls ever wonder where I stand about certain things, or how I feel,” Dickinson added, “if they’re ever curious, they can go find hints and clues in the music.”

For his second song, Dickinson played “They All Ask’d for You” by the Meters. As a young kid, his dad would teach him about songwriting and he joked about the song sounding like it was for kids but having crass elements. Metaphor and musical structure was a common topic of conversation between Dickinson and his father, which he hopes to relay onto his kids as well.

“They All Ask’d for You” (The Meters)

There are four generations of history in this song for Dickinson, with his father learning it from his elders, then imparting onto him, and from him to his kids. The personal care and love that was taken in making this album is steeped in every note and every word. The affection felt for both the songs and the community around them is what makes Magic Music as special as it is.

Discussing the song selection for the album, Dickinson talked about his original song “Whatever River” having a personal touch to prepare his kids for the future, and the covers being all meaningful to him in ways that he hopes will become meaningful to his kids as well. “That’s the magic part of Magic Music,” he added.

For his third song, he played “Boom Boom” by John Lee Hooker. Not a kids song per se, the titular “Boom Boom” and rhythm, as well as the laid-back comedic tone of the song is something that both he and his kids enjoyed listening to.

“Boom Boom” (John Lee Hooker)

Though “Boom Boom” was meant to be the last song, Dickinson graced us with one more to close out his session. He commented on how funny it is, playing to a full and captive room, and being able to improvise, as opposed to toy stores and record stores where he had so far played .

For his last song, he played “Beulah Land” by Mississippi John Hurt. Dickinson said that he used to be careless playing gospel music because he liked the melodies, but as he has grown up and raised his kids he’s realized that he had to be very firm about his stances and beliefs, so that he could impart them to his kids. He had quit singing gospel songs in public, but “Beulah Land” had that same spiritual charisma that he liked so much about gospel but was more vague in its messaging.

“Beulah Land” (Mississippi John Hurt)

Dickinson said he wanted his kids to know “whatever you believe is cool. As long as you’re not hurting anybody and not trying to force it on anybody else, and whatever they believe is cool, as long as they do the same.” The cover of “Beulah Land” was an ideal final song for the session and left us all feeling the magic.

Thank you to Luther Dickinson, Coral Snake Austin and our friends at Ilegal Mezcal for helping us put together these sessions. Tune in next week to see more sessions we have in store!

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