Los Lobos singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist David Hidalgo, Grammy-nominated North Mississippi Allstars guitarist Luther Dickinson and Native American band Indigenous frontman Mato Nanji met as featured artists on the Experience Hendrix tour. The tour gathers together guitarists such as Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, Buddy Guy and others to pay musical tribute to guitar icon Jimi Hendrix. 3 Skulls And The Truth is their collaborative debut disc.
Here the group share guitar and vocal duties and although the rhythm is often in the guitars, the trio are backed by Jeff Martin on drums and Steve Evans on bass. The lead-in is titled “Have My Way With You”. While it initially has a primitive, raw opening, the song–written by Steve “Lightnin” Malcolm, Dickinson and Nanji—turns out to be one of the best songs on the album.
It is followed “I’m A Fool”. This second selection is the work of Nanji and his wife Leah. While the song is obviously not a group effort the shared instrumental and vocal responsibilities make it the band’s own.
“Make It Right”
“Make It Right” is the next number. This one was written by the producer Mike Varney. Again, while it might be a tune to which none of the three guitarists have contributed in terms of writing, it does seem like the artists have the ability to make the song their own.
“Known ‘Round Here”
“Known ‘Round Here” is the fourth offering on this project. This track was written solely by Dickinson. This one is apologetically stamped with Mississippi blues rock and Dickinson isn’t afraid to lead the way down the blues-tinged roots rock road here. Some critics believe this release should have included more material by the actual artists, in fact.
Instead of that, however, the listener is presented with “Coming Home”. Not to be confused with the 2010 hip hop pop piece by Diddy and Dirty Money, this is another Varney composition interpreted by the threesome. They don’t seem to hold back though and plow right through the piece owning it.
“All I Know”
The sixth selection is “All I Know”. This is a song written by Nanji and his wife Leah. The song somehow works into this work better than some of the others despite a sometimes obvious female influence. This one is highlighted by its roots boogie base and sometimes soulful vocals.
“The Worldly And The Divine”
The following cut is called “The Worldly And The Divine”. This is perhaps the best of all the Varney contributions. The boys in the band turn it into a mash-up of blues, hard rock and Hendrix-inspired psychedelia that at times the listener expects to go out of the band’s control.
The eighth offering here is “Still Looking”. This is the second selection written by Nanji and his wife Leah. This is a bit different than their first offering but still contains some tell-tale element that reveals it true origins. Whether this is more of Nanji’s influence of that of his wife is uncertain and perhaps unimportant as in the end the trio takes charge.
“Cold As Hell”
The ninth number on this Blues Bureau International label release is “Cold As Hell”. This was co-composed by Dickinson and Malcolm. This one has some of the same trademarks as prior pieces but also includes a bit of a dark edge to it which is welcome amidst some of the other tracks here.
“The Truth Ain’t What It Seems”
“The Truth Ain’t What It Seems” is the tenth track on this project. This is the final Varney composition. It features a wailing bit of back and forth guitar riffs but remains an enigma. It’s somehow both not as powerful as expected while at the same time it somehow remains a favorite.
“Woke Up Alone”
“Woke Up Alone” is the final song by Nanji and his spouse. Considering the tune’s origins, the message of the song seems somewhat surprising. This is in actuality one of the best tracks here both musically and lyrically although it seems to have been woefully ignored by many other critics.
The closing cut is “Natural Comb”. This is the result of a songwriting team-up between Jimbo Mathus, Dickinson and Martin. There is something somehow almost sexual to this song. It serves as an apt end-note to an album very vaguely reminiscent of early ZZ Top in that is heavy blues rock with the guitars well up front.
“All I Know” is, despite some music critics disappointment that the disc was not more, it generally stands as a worthy effort by the three artists to successfully combine elements of multiple genres and styles including East L.A. guitar, Mississippi blues, psychedelic sounds and the roots music of South Dakota.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.