Monday, April 03, 2006

North Mississippi All Stars -- "Shake Hands with Shorty"

Besides it being fun to type "Mississippi," there are many head-bobbing, rocking hips, dancing feet, Grammy-nominated reasons to review this CD and their live show. This male trio out of, where else, Mississippi, play a show like a miniature version of the Allman Brothers or Led Zeppelin. A jam-band formed in 1996 and best experienced live and at full volume, two of the band members are sons of the legendary Nashville producer, Jim Dickinson (Luther and Cody Dickinson) with Chris Chew rounding out the band on bass. Daddy Dickinson layed down tracks for the likes of The Spin Doctors, the Replacements, and Spiritualized and took his sons along with him to watch the tapings. They met bassist Chew by performing at his senior class homecoming dance.

R.L. Burnside's son, Duwayne Burnside, played steel guitar on Polaris (sweeeet stuff). They received support from Lucinda Williams on Electric Blue Watermelon with backing vocals. A former punk band (DDT), the North Mississippi All Stars can kick it up for live shows -- occasionally venturing into extended jams for songs like Shake 'Em on Down (with a very R.L. Burnside opening lyric) and All Night Long (the kind of jam-band song you never want to end).

I had the very distinct pleasure of seeing them perform with opening act BR-549 (a band that has opened for the likes of Tim McGraw, Bob Dylan, Nick Lowe, and George Jones) years ago and left the show trying to figure out which band rocked more. I especially enjoyed seeing bluegrass maestro Earl Scrugg's son, Chris, rock in BR-549 with a guitar to a dancing audience. They proved a great lead-in to the rock-edged North Mississippi All Star show. My friends, Jeff and Christine, are still recovering from the amped up audio with mild tinitus (hey ... join the crowd, right?). **snug foam earplugs recommended if you see these guys live and up close**

Chris Chew can spit out some mighty funky bass riffs that sit nicely underneath Luther Dickinson's lead guitar, punctuated by Cody Dickinson's powerful drumming. These guys obviously love playing live shows. Some of Shake Hands is spacey, righteous in the end, psychodelic mantra punched out with metal snips of hardcore blues with that familiar blues refrain. Live ... this stuff rocks the crowd in waves of pounding surf. This ain't your daddy's blues band, that's for sure.

The North Mississippi All Stars offer a fantastic live show. Their CD's really don't do them justice. They're tight and funky and rockin' and they keep the audience surging just a pace ahead of the next wave of driving blues. They've put out several CD's since 2000's Shake Hands with Shorty including: 51 Phantom; The Word (with R.L. Burnside playing pedal steel); Polaris (not so great reviews but a studio version of my favorite NMAS song, Eyes); Hill Country Review: Live at Bonnaroo; and Electric Blue Watermelon released last year with Lucinda backing on Hurry Up Sunrise.

If you want to learn more about NMAS, check out the Tone Cool Website with the most comprehensive bio I've seen on this band anywhere (unusual for a record company, I might add.) You can check North Mississippi All Stars their website for tour dates which are MUST SEE'S! Long live jamming blues rock bands!