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Monday, May 20, 2024

The Scene: The Joint Was Jumpin

The blues never let me down. Late at night, I don headphones and turn the dial firmly to the right. Whether it is the soul voice of Buddy Guy, the frenetic guitar work of Duane Allman or the robust dirges of Bessie Smith. Songs of love lost mist my eyes.

Thankfully, the blues are a living, contemporary genre, constantly reinventing itself. The North Mississippi Allstars typify this reinvention of the old into the new.


On Sept. 17, The North Mississippi Allstars turned historic Rams Head Tavern into a honkytonk. Joined by bassist Jesse Williams, the brothers Dickinson opened up with a nod to their musical progenitor bluesman R.L. Burnside with “Goin’ Down South.”

After a brief detour to play one of their own compositions from their recent Grammy-nominated album “Set Sail,” the band returned to its roots cover another Burnside classic, “Poor Black Mattie.” Following up with Furry Lewis’s “K.C. Jones,” which many might remember from their days following the Grateful Dead. Next on the ticket, a soulful rendition of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Got to Move.” The remainder of the concert featured covers of Junior Kimbrough, more McDowell and Othar Turner’s “Bye Bye Baby.”

Luther is perhaps the most talented bluesman I have ever heard. Beit, just listen to the licks in “Shake ‘Em on Down” where his slide guitar leads Cody’s furious drumming or the intro to “Poor Black Mattie.”

The band was all smiles. Trading instruments and leads. Jesse took the lead several times trading his base for a guitar. His superb vocals made the cover of  B.B. King’s “Why I Sing the Blues ” a real treat.

And who doesn’t love a drum solo? Taking a break, Jesse and Luther left Cody alone to tear up his kit was a 15-minute bout of drumming that left the audience clapping and tapping their feet.

The band ended where they began, covering “Back Back Train,” a McDowell hit.

“I don’t want skinny women,” was on repeat the entire ride home the District on the stereo and believe you me, toes were tapping.

In Coming

Creeped out by the two octogenarians dominating the headlines? Head down to The Anthem on May 10, when the Decemberists take the stage.

Their 2011 hit “This is Why We Fight,” is the perfect antidote for this fearful epoch:

Come the war
Come the avarice
Come the war
Come hell

This why
Why we fight
Why we lie awake
Andr this is why
This is why we fight!

Formed in 2002 in Portland, the band has released eight studio albums beginning in 2002. My love affair with the group began the minute I heard “O Valencia!” on their 2006 effort, The Crane Wife.” They are touring now in support of their ninth work, “As It Ever was, So It Will Be Again,” due for release on June 14th.

A Look Ahead

Too young to have heard the Beatles? Ringo Starr arrives on Sept. 17 at the Anthem. The 80-something legend will have a little help from friends Colin Hay, Edgar Winter and others. For dazzling guitar work, Sunny War can’t be beat. Catch her outdoors at the Hill Center on June 2.

Andrew Lightman is an avid live music fan and audiophile. He can be found at andew@hillrag.com.

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