Just last week Luther Dickinson was bouncing around New Orleans, playing a variety of sets to coincide with that city’s Jazzfest, but now, with a new album on the horizon, he has teamed back up with his brother Cody and gotten their main band, the North Mississippi Allstars back on the road. On May 11th on the Lower East Side of Manhattan the fellas brought some guests and packed the Bowery Ballroom full of the blues.
Opening the show was bluesmen Alvin Youngblood Hart who strummed a solo set to put the slowly expanding crowd in the mood. Playing a variety of material Hart took his time, switching between acoustic and electric, upbeat and slow, as he strolled through the songs. Tossing in a cover of the Flamin’ Groovies “City Lights” and closing with the first song from his first album “Big Mama’s Door” Youngblood Hart covered a lot of dusty terrain during his mellow short set.
The Brothers Dickinson came out with their heavy electric blues aggressively taking on the old standard “Drink Muddy Water” with hot riffs and kick drum parts a plenty. The brothers are so steeped in the blues their sets are both history lessons and enlightenments; they will dip into a hundred-year-old song only to dust it off and put their own spin on it. On this night the duo mentioned their love for this room in particular and seemed genuinely excited to be on the Bowery’s stage.
Both are accomplished musicians and each spent portions of the set playing electronic keys to enhance the sound, however, when they welcomed the great Dominic Davis on bass the fury became more focused as the groove kicked on up the avenue for those “Deep Elem Blues”.The rhythm section took the lead on that one, but six strings were blazing for “Fireman Ring The Bell”, the swaggering stutter of “Eaglebird” and the crashing “Mississippi Bollweevil”.
Luther has always been a briliant guitarist, his slide playing was pristine and he enhances these songs with flourishes of metallic screeches, smooth solos and feedback. What has improved dramatically over the years is his frontman confidence, singing, and showmanship. He wrapped his arms around the microphone stand and clutched it between his burning Les Paul and chest as he played and sung with flair and passion.
The group also brought out some guests as they welcomed Rev. Sekou, Danielle Nicole and Alvin Youngblood Hart back to the stage. While Danielle Nicole featured perfectly on “You Gotta Move” it was the protesting of the Rev. Sekou’s “The Devil Finds Work” and “Resist” that packed a bigger punch. The brothers have mentioned their upcoming album Prayer For Peace is the most important of their career and the songs they played from it tonight felt that way. New offerings “Stealin”, “Run Red Rooster”, and “Bird Without A Feather” all came alive vividly to a crowd hearing them for the first time.
Scaling back to a trio the band paid tribute to Butch Trucks and Bobby Blue Bland during a scorching set closer that dipped in an out of a speedy “Shak’em On Down” some Allman Brothers riffs, a groovy “All Night Long” and bombastic “Lovelight”. While it was hard to keep track of all the great songs the North Mississippi Allstars touch on in one set, it isn’t hard to see that have grown immensely, are a can’t miss live act and are confidently striding toward new heights.