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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2002/03/26
by David Pernal

North Mississippi Allstars, Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA- 3/20

It was a cold and rainy night in Boston when the North Mississippi All-Stars brought their version of hot Delta Blues to the Yanks in Boston. Not exactly concert-going weather, but that didn’t keep me and about 350 others from attending the relatively-empty Paradise Rock Club for a night of down-home, dirty blues. The brothers Dickinson brought the house down last night with the support of Chris Chew and Duane Burnside. This was the kind of show that requires sour mash whiskey, and lots of it.

The show started with the band coming out full-bore. Luther was shredding his fret-board with his slide, Duane was laying the down-home blues riffs, while Cody and Chris drove the rhythm home like a hammer. From the opening chords, you could see the fire in their eyes, and the noise that came out of their instruments kept the inferno fueled for a full 2-hour set.

We were treated to some serious chops all night. With Luther and Duane swapping leads, I could definitely hear the undertones of those artists that had come before. Bluesmen like R.L. Burnside, Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Kimbrough, and T-Model Ford were up on stage with the NMAS all night, if only in spirit.

The style of the NMAS is hard to categorize. I’d put it somewhere in between Delta Blues and Punk, with some serious trance influences, and even a bit of pop and R&B thrown in for good measure. They have a unique sound to them, reminiscent of the Fat Possum sound that Matthew Johnson has been trying to cultivate for the past decade. But they tend to take it beyond that, and lend a flavor to the blues that is all their own.

Highlights from the show which stick with me are many, but I’ll concentrate on a few:

 Sittin’ on Top of the World Luther on slide, Duane on rhythm. The band smoking through this one. This traditional song that was made popular by Howlin’ Wolf was quite possibly the best part of the evening for me, until

 Skinny Woman > Ramblin’ Man Jam > Skinny Woman > Ramblin’ Jam Luther absolutely tore this one up. The Ramblin’ parts were reminiscient Duane Allman, while the band floated in and out of the segues with ease. Burnside’s Skinny Woman seemed to take on a personality of its own when juxtaposed with the Allman’s hot rocker. This, I knew, couldn’t be topped. But there was more

 The Thrill Is Gone The boys did this B.B. King classic justice. While I’m a huge fan of the Garcia/Grisman version, I think this version definitely was quite a bit hotter.

 Lovelight Hot damn! I started smiling when I heard the first few chords of this one, and didn’t stop until we left the place. Never have I heard a band butcher lyrics so badly, but that didn’t matter this was all about Luther and Duane.

Weaved in and out of the entire set were elements from so many different music genres, I will not even try to put names to them. The North Mississippi Allstars have got their collective sh*t together musically, and it shows. It is nice to see a group of young players out on the stage playing music that has been around for generations, but still able to make it fresh and unique. As Luther Dickinson said, “When young white kids play black music, whether it’s Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones or the Beastie Boys, it turns into rock n’ roll. That’s what rock n’ roll is.” And Rock n’ Roll it was.

While this was my first exposure to the NMAS, it will not be my last. They don’t tour much in the Northeast, but I’ll be sure to see them.

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