Mississippi Blues @ St Bonaventures, Bristol 22nd October 2013 Part 2 – North Mississippi Allstars
This is another Bluesdoodles combined Gig & CD review
No wonder this was a sell out gig two quality acts for the price of one, no one can call North Mississippi Allstars (NMAS) as subtle, laid back or conventional, what they are is artistic, feeling the beat and shaping the music to create dark rhythms, wild beats and musicality of the top drawer every note that can be possibly be created on a guitar is meshed together to create this unique blues fuelled party. The NMAS create this sound out of a chaotic and at times seeming random connection of melody and lyrics but it works on stage and in the recording studio. It is due to the immense talent and mutual understanding of the Dickinson brothers Cody & Luther who are the backbone and fronts-men of this band with the combination of Luther’s guitar skills with his silky and seductive slide skills combined with energy and at times anger that makes the guitar squeal, sing and weep at you drawing you into the sound reaching deep into your soul; and Cody’s inspired, intuitive and free-form drumming and percussive skills no wonder his boogie sound is the bands trademark!. This is a sound that is driven and the drive makes you want to have fun and enjoy being in their company as much as they enjoy playing for the crowded venue in Bristol. The energy is created by Luther who hardly stays still for a second as he prowls around the small stage looking for an outlet for is pent-up energy, and he does through the music. This is certainly not simply a duo since joining them on stage to provide the bass line is Lightnin’ Malcolm who hardly had time to draw breath from his own opening set and then there is the fantastic interaction and stage craft as they play musical chairs when Cody moves from behind the drum kit out front to for the folksy, ‘Train I Ride’ where he played electro-washboard linked up to a WahWah pedal creating a uniquely Allstars sound; or stomp and boom with the big bass drum held aloft, so Lightnin’ Malcolm now has the drummers role and Luther plays on sometimes with a Coffee Can Diddly Bow. Then it is all change again as the energy rises amongst the band and the excited foot stomping crowd as they all don drums and walk amongst the crowded room making the beat pour out throughout the room wow what a sound as they did their own rendition like you have never heard before of ‘Does Your Dog Bite’ what an atmosphere. Throughout the night all three musicians played multiple instruments sometimes the bass, other times lead guitar or the drums seemingly on a whim but it all made perfect musical sense. Exceptional! This is a unique innovative, and thoroughly enjoyable progressive Blues incorporating sounds from the woods, hills and any genre that feels right in the moment, this is a live sound that you need to have been there to have felt the beat and absorbed the mystery that is the North Mississippi Allstars. The stand out tracks for me played tonight was the opening on the encore ‘Goin’ To Brownsville’, ‘Goat Meat’ and ‘World Boogie’. Fantastic music and atmosphere in a crowded, hot and sweaty bar, all too soon we had a reality check as we stepped into the damp dark evening in Bristol and left the steamy swamps of Mississippi behind us.
The production of the record is superb and it is novel how the CD is divided into four segments the first three reminiscent of a gig – Set 1, 2 and an encore then the film and bonus track; encapsulating what makes the North Mississippi Allstars so popular and how they always look to do their music a little bit differently. Any album that gets you excited about a version of ‘Rollin’ and a Tumblin’ has to go to the top of the pile in my records and the version on “World Boogie is Coming”; by Mississippi Allstars certainly does, this is a fantastic update of the loved song with use of Luther’s vocal and a Coffee Tin Diddle Bow, a metal resonator that takes you down to the earthy, muddy dirt driven blues of making music from what is available while sitting on a stoop. The whole album is as fresh as a daisy full of verve, vim and vigour, whether revamping old favourites including ‘My Babe’ , that sleazes its way into your musical lexicon with the gentle penny whistle and hypnotic drumming and the contrasting vocals of Luther. The whole album has an anarchic, chaotic frenetic feel as they make music that makes you sit up and listen this is artistry, this is different and with tracks like ‘Boogie’, whilst is using traditional blues rhythm they add a modern direction and freshness so that you want to dance and stomp around the house leaving boredom, the chores and the reality of life behind you. This is an album that has some impressive guests including Robert Plant playing quality harmonica on ‘Goat Meat’ and the compatriots, that have worked with them on myriad projects including Ian Siegal & Mississippii Mudbloods, including Duwayne & Garry Burnside, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sharde Thomas and many more. There can be no doubt that this is the best album they have released so far, it is an infectious re-configuring of the blues that holds your attention and leaves you wanting more and throughout the album you have a feeling it will be even better live and the gig at St Bonaventure’s confirmed that it is despite losing some of the studio tricks and the loss of the backing singers. The length of the tracks vary some are mere snippets whilst others go on for a glorious ten minutes such as
‘Jumper on the Track’. This is an anthem of a song that should be played at least once a day, bringing the Burnside classic straight into the 21st century with its chugging line, vocals that are as clear as a bell delivering words so relevant for today; the mix is perfect my only complaint is it all too quickly comes to an end – now that is the advantage of CDs so easier to set to replay and on random you get a mix that the studio never intended but then you are becoming part of the NMAS anarchic approach to the blues.