- North Mississippi Allstars- Keep on Marchin
Songs of the South
I really wanted to like this DVD and struggled with writing this review. The North Mississippi Allstars are one of my favorite bands but this DVD just doesnt accurately capture the vibe of their live show. It just goes to show that it takes more than six HD cameras, a proficient editor, and high production values to make a good DVD. Truthfully, I was far more impressed by the recent one-camera internet feed of the Allstars from Mountain Jam.
Higher Ground in Burlington, Vermont, where Keep On Marchin was shot, is certainly a nice venue: big and open, bright and modern, with a good dance floor and fine lighting. But thats really the problem: everything is way too well-lit and spacious to create any sort of vibe. The trio is too brightly illuminated and looks way too small trying to fill up the large stage. Also, the audience looks as if its miles away from the band and just doesnt seem that into the show. Every time the camera pans on the crowd for the first half of the DVD, people are mostly standing still, the lone exception being two girls riding the rail who must be the object of the editors affection. I think that the main problem here is that there just arent enough people in the crowd to create the over-the-top vibe that an at-home-viewer needs to get the experience of being at the show. After all, isnt this the main reason why people watch concert DVDs— to get a glimpse of the unique experience of being in the audience? The editor must have realized this obvious disconnect between the band and the crowd, but an attempt to add energy and movement with rapid-fire cuts between band members only gave me motion sickness. It actually would have been nice to have seen the same frame for more than a few seconds at a time.
Though the DVD doesnt quite capture the vibe of an Allstars show, there are some reasons to watch it. If youre any kind of guitar player, youll appreciate that the vibe-killing lighting actually makes it easier to see exactly what Luther Dickinson and Chris Chew are doing with their hands. You also get to see a lot of nice shots of their extensive collection of guitars and basses in action, including an odd one-string cigar-box slide guitar that Luther plays on the opener. In addition, the video reveals band dynamics that Ive never been close enough to pick up on in a live show. Until this DVD, Ive never noticed how much Chris Chews vocals contribute or that Cody plays keys while playing drums, which is kind of amazing to see.
If you purchase Keep On Marchin, my advice is to start with Po Black Maddie on Track 12 and watch straight through to the end of the show. This is the best run of the DVD because the lights have dimmed somewhat and the crowd is the most engaged theyll be all night. Some highlights here are Stompin My Foot, a new tune (at the time), and an awesome Freedom Highway closer that comes closest to actually capturing the bands down-home vibe.
Included on the DVD are two interesting extras. The first is a short series of interviews with the band members, which serve as nice fan candy and allow you to hear a little bit more about how the Allstars came together from the different band members points of view. The Dickinsons also talk a lot about their famed record producer father, Jim, and how his band Mud Boy and the Neutrinos was a huge influence on their sound. The second extra is a preview of the bands second DVD release, Do It Like We Used To Do, a documentary on the Allstars and the Hill Country Music scene, complete with shots of the band playing in small dark places, big festivals, and backyard parties— pretty much everything that would have made Keep on Marchin work! If youre a die-hard fan and really want to have some Allstars in your DVD collection, I suggest you wait for Do It Like We Used To Do.