Words by Shain Shapiro

North Mississippi Allstars :: 05.13 :: Apollo :: Barcelona, SPA

North Mississippi Allstars
There is an odd feeling that surfaces when you see a band from back home in a foreign country. While I am using the word "home" quite loosely in this context – referring to North America - the sheer excitement of familiarity in an unfamiliar place is cathartic, like closing your eyes and enjoying a moment of silence while waiting at a street corner in Manhattan. I had no intention of seeing live music throughout my obligatory three-month post-graduation jaunt across Europe; however, I stumbled upon a poster lining a side street in Madrid advertising the North Mississippi Allstars trio of dates in Spain. Better yet, the date in Barcelona, which happened to be on a Friday night, coincided perfectly with my half-assed planned itinerary, creating a chance encounter that added to Barcelona's intrinsic enchantment by dousing my travels in some calming familiarity amidst a trip set on exploring the unknown.

Cody Dickinson - NMA
The last time I shared a night with the southern trio was in Toronto in the fall, and unfortunately, the set was more uninspiring than entrancing as each whiskey-fuelled ode to Burnside and company grew identical to the next, creating an evening that grew musically tiring halfway through the show. This time, maybe thanks to both the band and I being in Barcelona for the first time, the outcome changed hands. Many of the songs they played, like the show months previous, were off the new album Electric Blue Watermelon, which has just been released in Spain. Yet, throughout the over two hour set, the trio sounded significantly more inspired, fiery and climactic than usual, creating an electric atmosphere that was lasciviously lapped up by the noticeably large Spanish crowd. "Teasin' Brown" was liberally extended, rolling through swaths of chunky, delta-drenched blues and clunky improvisation that sounded better after each bar, while "Mean Ol' Wind Died Down," a slower, more patient track off the record, was wielded feverishly, stuffed to capacity with weighty choruses, emotive melodies, and pensive rhythms.

Luther Dickinson - NMA
In short, Barcelona was on the receiving end of special treatment by Big Chew and the Dickinson Brothers, as each raucous chorus bled with as much antiquity as youthfulness because the boys found a way to perfectly combine the old with the new with each passing line. At some points, the spirit of R.L. Burnside bogarted the plump joint, while at others, like the jam-fuelled "Freedom Highway," the band sounded as fresh and invigorated as a Sunday morning garage jam after a night on the town. The ghosts of old were honoured with sonic tributaries like Al Green's "Love and Happiness" and a combination of "Sittin' on Top of the World" and "Turn of Your Lovelight," while the future of blues was featured through "Hurry up Sunshine" and the politically potent "Ain't The Same No Mo." Regardless, the primarily Spanish contingent and the smattering of expats soaked up each drop of the trio's sweat, which contained the primordial soul and refreshing future of the blues. Whether it was crackling southern rock, classic-blues pop, or the delta twang of hillbilly gospel, the boys pulled it off in fine fashion in Barcelona. What a lovely feeling. I wish more coincidences like this happened in my life.

JamBase | Barcelona
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[Published on: 5/30/06]

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vida421 Wed 5/31/2006 01:13PM
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I had a feeling you caught a bad show in Toronto. Bands can't be on every night. These guys are young and have lots of time to get there stuff straight.