Moving into much rootsier territory than their former punk band DDT, brothers Luther (guitar, mandolin, vocals) and Cody Dickinson (drums, sampling) formed the North Mississippi Allstars in 1996 with bassist Chris Chew. The sons of legendary Memphis producer Jim Dickinson were born in Fayette County, TN, and their family later moved to northern Mississippi, where the boys soaked up the country blues sound of the region from artists like Mississippi Fred McDowell and R.L. Burnside. That became the chief inspiration for the Allstars, but the group also mixes in a rock edge, an alternative aesthetic (comparable to outfits like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and the Black Keys), and a road-ready rock & roll sensibility akin to jam bands like Phish. After touring as an opening act for a variety of artists and honing their chops as a unit, the North Mississippi Allstars issued their debut, Shake Hands with Shorty, in the spring of 2000. The album was a significant success, earning a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album, as did their 2001 sophomore set, 51 Phantom. Later in 2001, the North Mississippi Allstars teamed with John Medeski and pedal steel player Robert Randolph to form the Word, an instrumental gospel-blues band, for an album and tour.