North Mississippi Allstars in Fort Collins
The North Mississippi Allstars have been shattering expectations and dropping jaws since their founding in 1996. Over 23 years later they continue to be a positive force spreading the gospel of hill country music to their devoted following and beyond. While the brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson have been the constant in this group, the bass spot has been in perpetual flux since the departure of Chris Chew in 2012. While some venerable talents have filled the slot including Pierre Wells and Ron Johnson no one has made the leap to official member. Currently Anders Osborne bassist Carl Dufrene is filling the role much to the delight of their fans. Their single set and encore at Washington’s lasted for over 90 minutes with wide array of their extensive catalog on display. After a brief introduction and toast to the crowd Luther launched into “Shimmy” which gave way to shred-happy space jams on “Station Blues.”
“Need To Be Free” featured the driving bass lines of Dufrene propping up Luther’s evocative vocals. “Meet Me In The City” is the their dynamic ode to Holly Springs, Mississippi and the good old days. NMAS is singlehandedly keeping a tradition and style of music alive that might otherwise sink into the swamp. The Hill Country Blues are born and bred in a place that doesn’t receive a lot of national attention. While critics and fans venerate the Delta Blues and the forefathers of jazz the fact remains that an equally impressive and innovative style developed just a few miles to the North. These two brothers work tirelessly to spread the word and celebrate their institutions. “Mean Old World” saw Cody slapping out a tight beat before they continued with the sultry call to arms “Move Back to Mississippi” penned by NMAS collaborator and friend Anders Osborne. At one point early in the set Cody Dickinson emerged from behind his kit with his washboard draped over his shoulders; he treated us to a monumental solo before stepping back to his drum throne.
There was definitely an older fanbase in the room, which was unfortunately only about half full. The white and grey heads bobbed on the rail as the band played on brilliantly. Luther plucked on a coffee can guitar during “Drinking Muddy Water” before they went into a gritty “Psychedelic Sex Machine.” NMAS kept fans moving with another pair of classics in the form of “Po Black Maddie” into a huge “Skinny Woman.” The North Mississippi Allstars are known for focusing on the positive and looking for the bright side. Their song “Prayer For Peace” is the title track from their latest album and it easily demonstrates their musical mantra. “Lord Have Mercy” was another bright spot in a really amazing set of music. Mr. Dufrene finally got his chance on the mic for a rendition of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s blues standard “Tina Nina Nu.” Suddenly Luther reached down into the front row and hoisted local blues phenom Grace Kuch up to the stage and handed her a guitar. She took solos on both “Stealin” and “Ho Down” before she disappeared back into the crowd. The Allstars closed down their set with the Americana traditional “Deep Ellum” into an earthquake-inducing “Shake Em On Down.”
The trio reappeared for a five-song encore that included a “Freedom Highway,” which Luther dedicated to the immortal Mavis Staples. They shut down an epic set of music with the Allman Brothers-esque “ML (Goin Home).” Simply put the North Mississippi Allstars don’t disappoint. With today’s oversaturated musical landscape it’s easy to get bogged down in the “new.” Don’t forget that the North Mississippi Allstars are still out there, grinding it out for all us sinners. They bring a light and musical prowess to every stage they play that is unique and worth your attention.