North Mississippi Allstars | 03.12.10

The Pageant turned into a full fledged juke joint Friday night.





Photos: Joanna Kleine


w/ Hill Country Revue
The Pageant, St. Louis

It’s virtually impossible not to shake what your mama gave you at a North Mississippi Allstars show.  It has been the same story at each of the several I’ve been to – you can look across the crowd and there is a perpetual bounce that breaks into a full-on blues dance party explosion when the guys get into their groove and get down and nasty on stage. Show-goers can expect to leave a smiling, sweaty mess, reveling in a first rate throw down performed by one of today’s superior blues-rock bands.

Not once have I left a NMAS show feeling like they held anything back.  You can tell they love to play together and you can feel the importance they place on keeping the blues tradition alive, and making it thrive even.  I have been to plenty of bigger shows of bigger bands at bigger venues and left nowhere near as impressed.  Although they have three Grammys, you wouldn’t be surprised if they were stashed in a drawer somewhere, not up in an ostentatious awards case. Brothers Cody (drums) and Luther Dickinson (guitar/vocals) and their long-time friend Chris Chew (bass) make up the band, which formed in 1996, and they’ve been shaking it down and giving crowds the best of north Mississippi’s brand of contemporary country blues since their beginning – a beginning that grew out of the influence from the blues musicians they were lucky to grow up around, which included Junior Kimbrough, Otha Turner and R.L. Burnside.   

Friday night’s show was no exception, and throwing their friends and opener Hill Country Revue into the mix made for an incredible show, ending no less with almost a full hour encore of all the guys from NMAS and Hill Country Revue jamming out together – including a ridiculous drum duel between Cody Dickinson and Ed “Hot” Cleveland.  Also during the encore the room was blessed, frankly, by a gorgeous guitar battle between HCR’s Kirk Smithhart, who received the prestigious Albert King award for Best Guitarist by the Blues Foundation when he was just 19, and son of the late Memphis record producer Jim Dickinson, Luther Dickinson, who is hailed in many circles as a living guitar god, having been taught by guitarists including Warren Haynes, Sean Lane and Kenny Brown, and why lots and lots of girls who have ever seen him play live wish they could be a Gibson guitar, at least for one night.   

You could say they kept it simple, almost predictable throughout the show, which seemed to be exactly what everyone was hoping for.  They busted out all the favorites – “Po Black Maddie,” “Never in All My Days,” “Lord Have Mercy,” “Stompin’ My Foot,” “Bad Bad Pain”… and of course the crowd lost its collective mind when they broke into “Shake (Yo Mama).” The Pageant turned into a full fledged juke joint Friday night and as expected, after close to four hours, the rest of what had turned into a congregation and I left – a sweaty, smiling mess.

Upcoming NMSA tour stops include the Wanee Music Festival in Live Oak, FL on 4.16 and the Beale Street Music Festival on 5.1.  Hill Country Revue will be performing this Thursday 3.18 in Austin at SXSW at Barbarella. | Joanna Kleine


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