When the North Mississippi Allstars announced they would be performing a "Hill Country Revue" at the latest Bonnaroo, music fans across the country were intrigued. We could only guess exactly what would go down at this show, as the lineup was kept a secret until that fateful day finally arrived. What did go down, and what was subsequently recorded as the NMA's first official live album, has proven to be one of the best damn live albums of the 21st century thus far. Quite a bold statement you may be thinking. The only answer I can offer is to ask that you seek this album out and have a listen for yourself.

Starting things off are the live staples "Shake 'Em On Down" and "Po Black Maddie." "Shake 'Em" is a great introduction to the band and serves its purpose of getting the crowd warmed up and giving them just a hint of what's to come. On "Po Black Maddie," which segues into "Skinny Woman" and then back into "Po Black Maddie," the listener first becomes aware of just how much ass these guys kick. Luther tears in as he lays down smooth, crisp solos, one after the other like machine gun fire, making this the most jammed out tune on the album. In the middle of the song, towards the first segue, Duwayne Burnside, who has since left the Allstars to open his own juke joint in Mississippi, proudly introduces his father R.L., the author of the song. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to hear any of R.L.'s playing as he mainly contributes vocals and a whole lot of "well, well, wells."

After a couple more tunes with R.L., Luther proudly introduces his, and drummer Cody's father, (and the sound engineer of the album) the legendary Jim Dickinson, who comes out to play keyboards and sing the next tune, "Down in Mississippi." One thing that can't be stressed enough is the amazing sound of this live album, which sounds like it was recorded in a studio, not a tent in Tennessee. A couple songs later, Luther introduces "our new brother Chris Robinson," to come up and sing "Boomer's Story," a nice little countryish ditty, which is perfectly suited to Chris's voice and accented beautifully by Jim Dickinson's bouncy, jukin' piano.

The next few tunes find the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band on stage. Their portion begins strong with "Shimmy She Wobble" segueing into "Station Blues," aka "Sittin' On Top of the World." But for some reason, an ill-fitting taste of hip-hop sneaks in at this point. The rapping didn't last long however, and in the next tune, "Goin' Home Part Two," we find some excellent guitar interplay between Luther and Duwayne, reminiscent of the Grateful Dead. To close out the show was the already classic "Going Down South," which ended a little too quickly, possibly due to time constraints.

The Hill Country Revue will certainly withstand the test of time and prove to be a classic live album. All the players are superb and the tremendous sound quality makes this an album to treasure. Fans of the Allstars will have no doubt already picked this one up, but anyone out there that has been looking for some good old-fashioned rock and roll should make this album a necessity as well.

Listen to Hill Country Review on Rhapsody.

Sam Katz
JamBase | Boston
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[Published on: 11/19/04]

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