Watching The North Mississippi Allstars tear through an electric two-hour-plus set Saturday night at the Music Mill was a revelation: two young brothers on guitar and drums, and a large man playing the bass and doing electrified versions of the hill country blues that people like Othar Turner and Junior Kimbrough rekindled in the last decade, but slicked up and streamlined into an Allman-Southern boogie.
Yeah, of course hippie kids are gonna go nuts. But The North Mississippi Allstars prove themselves more than just your average run-of-the-mill, post-Jerry/ post-Phish hippie outfit.
Luther Dickinson plays his guitar like it’s a Saturday night juke party and his brother Cody keeps the beat nice and tight, falling somewhere between Meg White and the drummer for the Black Keys. Chris Chew, a large, gregarious bear of a bassist, is the one who adds just enough groove to keep a nice little booty-shaking shine on the rough and tumble racket the Dickinson Brothers are creating.
Epic jams like “Georgia Woman” (or in this case, “Indiana Woman”) leading into “Po Black Maddie” into “Skinny Woman” back to “Po Black Maddie” and the scorching opening of “Shimmy She Wobble” and “Station Blues” snaked around solid straight-up blues tunes like “Moonshine” and “Back to Dixie.” The rest of the set was filled up with ass-shaking funky shit like “Stomping my Foot” and “Shake ’Em On Down” that the Abercrombie clique ate up like candy-coated Samuel Adams.
At one point during the show, Luther picks up a Cigar Box contraption with a couple sticks, a bass string and two or three guitar strings and a few odd looking pickups called a Lowe Bow and proceeds to set the place on fire. While it looked like something out of a Hee Haw skit, it sounded like something Hendrix would’ve dreamed up. Later, Cody gets out from behind the drum kit and with an electric washboard puts on one of the most otherworldly performances I’ve ever had the good luck to witness. Sounding at times like a Pete Townsend melt-down and other times like a spaceship landing or something, it was the hat trick that pushed this show from a good one into a great one.
Fast-paced, fun and full of curveballs, The Allstars put on a show that is a rarity these days, just hippie enough to keep the drugs working, but rocking enough to keep the non-hippies interested.