The North Mississippi Allstars at the Old Town School of Folk Music Review- Rocking out Lincoln Square

Cody and Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars

Since brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson along with Chris Chew formed the North Mississippi Allstars in 1996, they have managed to stick to their bluesy roots while at the same time push at musical limits.  Their first album, Shake Hands With Shorty, was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Blues Album.”  This was followed by two later Grammy nominations as well as television appearances and a brief stint as the house band on Last Call with Carson Daly in 2004.  Over the last couple of years, the brothers have split their time between the North Mississippi Allstars and other ventures (Luther with The Black Crows and Cody with The Hill Country Revue).  In 2009, Jim Dickinson, a blues legend in his own right and father to Luther and Cody passed away.  The brothers pulled together and recorded Keys to The Kingdom (Songs of The South) at their family recoding studio in celebration of Jim Dickinson’s life. 

Alvin Youngblood Hart with Cody and Luther Dickinson

As great as the Allstars are recorded, they are even better live.  Last Saturday night (February 18, 2012) they rocked the Old Town School of Folk Music’s Lincoln Square venue with everything they had in the first of two consecutive shows.  Luther and Cody rifted through their own creations, from their most recent album Keys to The Kingdom to such classics as Po Black Maddie/ Skinny Woman.  They also celebrated artists and genres as diverse as Bob Dylan, Mississippi John Hurt, Jimi Hendrix, and a whole catalog of Southern Roots Rock.  All of this was delivered with stunning guitar work, amazing musical knowhow, and vocals and rhythms that left you wanting more.   Luther, who played guitar and lead vocals, changed guitars on stage as often as Lady Gaga changes costumes.  Besides the traditional string instruments, Luther brought on stage whimsical looking instruments that seemed right of a Dr. Seuss book such as an itty-bitty banjo (about the size of a fist) as well as a cigar box guitar.  Cody (primarily drums, bass, and vocals) also got into the act by using what looked like juggling pins on his drums.  He also periodically played an electrified washer in what had to be the most rock star use of this instrument I have ever seen.  Throughout the night a giant screen also flashed scenery and other tidbits (sometimes related to the music at hand, sometimes not) as well as live shots of the brothers playing on the stage.  None of this ever felt gimmicky but rather accentuated the big, pulsing sound that filled the intimate concert hall.  Joining them on stage for extended periods was Alvin Youngblood Hart whose nifty guitar work and back up vocals complemented the brothers well. 

Cody Dickinson on drums

Toward the end of the night, Luther referred to their music as “electric folk.”  This was most evident earlier in the performance when Luther unplugged his guitar and stepped away from the microphone to sing John Mississippi Hurt’s “Candy Man”.  The raucous audience quieted to hear Luther’s voice and gentle toe tapping.  When the song ended the crowd erupted in claps and whoops and one could feel the respect and love not just for the band, but for bluesy rock and roll that cannot ever be contained in one niche alone.

Luther Dickinson

In addition to jamming with the Allstars, Alvin Youngblood Hart also opened for the band with some deep soulful blues.  Alvin complemented his music with some top notch story telling as he brought the audience north from Mississippi to Cairo, Il., to St. Louis.

Alvin Youngblood Hart

For information and tour dates for the North Mississippi Allstars click here:  http://www.nmallstars.com/ 

For information and tour dates for Alvin Youngblood Hart, click here:  http://www.mojomusic.com/alvin/

For information for coming shows at the Old Town School of Folk Music, click here:  http://www.oldtownschool.org/concerts/  The North Mississippi Allstars are playing again tonight (February 19, 2012) and tickets may still be available.

The top photo provided by the Old Town School of Folk Music.  All others photos by Noel Schecter

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