James Luther Dickinson Free Beer Tomorrow

Dickinson’s legendary exploits with other artists — playing piano on the Stones’ "Wild Horses,” backing up Aretha Franklin and Sam & Dave, and producing the likes of Big Star and the Replacements — are better known than his own work, but then again, this is only his second album in 30 years. As a figurehead of post-Sun and Stax Memphis, along with Alex Chilton and critic Stanley Booth, Dickinson remains true to the weird stew that the city’s music scene has always thrived on. Free Beer Tomorrow is therefore a head-on collision of blues, country and pop that’s tied together by Dickinson’s flair for wry storytelling. Fans of Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart will probably not find anything unusual about this record, as Dickinson’s voice is a little worse for wear and tear, and the kitchen sink production is reflective of that as well. Yet the album is worth hearing just for its centrepiece, "Billy & Oscar,” a rambling, beat-style spoken word piece that finds Billy the Kid and Oscar Wilde roaming America together, killing and critiquing everything in their path. Nobody’s done anything like it in a long time, but that’s why Dickinson remains an American original. Anyone who can appreciate that should pay attention. (Artemis)