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Published: 2004/01/11
by Josh Mintz

North Mississippi Allstars, New Daisy Theater, Memphis, TN- 12/31

Any time the North Mississippi Allstars come to Memphis, it turns into a family affair. The Dickinson family has had roots in the Bluff City for a long time…father Jim Dickinson is a Memphis legend, having produced acts such as Big Star and Ry Cooder. While he brought his sons up in rural Mississippi, Cody was born in Memphis. The brothers Dickinson (Luther and Cody) got their start gigging in clubs around Memphis. That being said, knowing that the Allstars were coming "home" to play a show on New Year's Eve at the New Daisy Theater on Beale Street, one had to figure that there would be something special happening that night. Sure enough, a few days prior to the show it was announced that Jim would be making a guest appearance.

Wednesday night's show was indeed something for the agesthe setlist ran through the Allstars entire catalog and beyond, songs new and old, originals and covers. They took the stage at around 10 o'clock, with their usual setupLuther and Duwayne Burnside on guitar, Chris Chew on bass, and Cody on drums. There was a keyboard set up on stage as well that Jim took his place behind, decked out in a zebra-striped shirt and bandana. He would stay the entire night. They opened up the show w/ a smokin' version of "Eyes," the first single off the recently-released Polaris, followed by a song they have only been playing for a couple of months, "Deep Blue Sea." Despite the relative infancy of the song, a good bit of the crowd seemed to know the words. Crowd favorite "Sugartown" followed, and the band really let it fly with this oneit’s a song that embodies what the Allstars are all about, a tune that only someone with no pulse could stand still during. Jim Dickinson took vocals on the next song, "Down in Mississippi," before giving way to the first extended improvisational jam of the night. The guys started with "Be So Glad," seamlessly shifted into the instrumental "Goin’ Home," and after Luther and co. worked that over nicely, moved right into "All Along" without missing a beat. They brought their first guest of the night, Corey Branan, out on a cover of "Long Tall Sally," paying homage to Little Richard, whom they shared a stage with during the summer at the Tupelo Elvis Festival. Other Allstars standards showed up in the first setversions of "Goin’ Down South," "Po Black Maddie," and "Shake Em On Down" were strong as usual, and the first set wrapped up right at midnight with a nice "Auld Lang Syne > Washboard Jam." For anyone that hasn't heard Cody Dickinson play an electric washboard, mark that down as something to catch in 2004 because you have probably never seen anything like it.

The second set opened up with "Shimmy She Wobble," a tune written by the late Otha Turner, family friend of the Dickinson's, and the percussion section of his prodigal Rising Star Drum and Fife band were on stage to supplement. They stayed on as "Shimmy" segued into "Freedom Highway," adding two snares and one bass drum to Cody's already thundering beat. While the first set was more rock-oriented, the second had a strong blues feel to it. Following a couple of blues numbers sung by Duwayne, Jim Dickinson took vocals on a great version of BB King's "Thrill Is Gone," which rolled right into "Lord Have Mercy." After, Cody emerged from behind his drum kit and switched places with Duwayne, taking guitar duties over next to his brother, and doing a fine job of it, singing a great cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Whiskey Rock-a-Roller." He stayed on guitar for a couple more songs, before returning to his drum set. Every time I catch the Allstars, their versatility amazes me. In one show, Cody took turns on guitar, played the drums, and a washboard, and did an outstanding job on each of them. Almost every member of the band seems to be able to play every instrument, and as a collective unit they don't seem to miss a beat no matter who is playing what. Other highlights of the second set included a great cover of Ry Cooder's "On A Monday," and Duwayne's soulful singing on "Bad Bad Pain."

During the span of four hours, the Allstars brought in a new year, yet went back in time. Apart from sharing the stage with their father, an icon in the southern music industry, a look at their setlist clearly shows their influences. Amongst their own material, the band mixed in songs from Blues heroes BB King and RL Burnside, and a few from bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Little Richard. The Allstars are a band that truly seems to understand and respect the people that laid the path behind them. Perhaps while Widespread Panic rests in 2004, their fans will spend their unused ticket money on the North Mississippi Allstars, because they're out there doing great things and people who haven't already done so will catch on soon.

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