Words by Brian Heisler :: Images by Pamela Martinez
North Mississippi AllStars with Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
09.30.06 :: The Fillmore Auditorium :: Denver, CO
Denver's Fillmore Auditorium was originally opened as Mammoth Roller Skating Rink in 1907 and later off-and-on was known as Mammoth Gardens, an entertainment venue of many sorts until May 19th, 1999, when it was reopened as The Fillmore Auditorium with Trey Anastasio as the inaugural headliner.
Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins :: 09.30
About seven years later, arriving at the pristine venue for an evening with North Mississippi AllStars, it was Blue Merle's Lucas Reynolds followed by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, in their daringly short, green sparkle dresses and cowboy boots, warming up the stage for NMA.
After plenty of extra free sounds from Lewis and company, the mile high stage was set for some freshly imported Delta blues. The brothers Dickinson (Luther on guitar, Cody on drums) and bassist Chris Chew took the stage with a fury. The unmistakable sound of Luther's rough guitar rang through The Fillmore, and his throw-back look of shaded, wire-rimmed glasses and a leather, shoulder-patched cowboy shirt gave him a fine-tuned, badass rock star look. The room was far from full, but that just gave the audience more room to get rowdy. Even the full-blown cowboy in front of me got down.
Luther Dickinson :: 09.30
"This is a new song," Luther told the crowd, insisting that everyone "shake what your momma gave you." In his Delta growl, Luther's voice followed his guitar riffs up and down as if connected to each other. Both his guitar and voice retained their twang throughout the evening, but watching him rifle through his arsenal of guitars was like watching the outfits on a Hollywood red carpet event. The Les Paul, the hollow body, the cigar box-turned guitar, the Flying V – if the military needs a ration of guitars anytime soon they might call Luther Dickinson. The most interesting part about the sound the three musicians create is the space each one is given. Where some bands layer their sound with six or seven instruments, the three-piece unit of the AllStars allows for great room to explore the personality of each member of the band and his chosen weapon. In addition to Luther's great lead, Chew rocked his side of the stage with the bass, laying down the road for each song, always grooving as if he were actually in the audience, and occasionally taking the lead on vocals. Cody Dickinson kept the drumming tight and took solos within songs, again exploring the space the trio allows. There was nothing to hide behind; no smart lights, no muddy sound, no hidden mechanics or mystery machines. Everything NMA did was laid down right in front of the listener.
Cody Dickinson :: 09.30
Towards the end of the evening, in a role reversal, Luther jumped on the drums while Cody took center stage with a washboard. However, this was not the traditional washboard; it had electronic fuzz effects, which Cody played to perfection like Jon Fishman on the vacuum. In fact, Cody played the washboard more like a guitar than a washboard. He has clearly mastered the many different ways to produce sound on the simple instrument. Not to be outdone, Luther then pulled out his guitar made from a cigar box, which surprisingly seemed to sound just like the rest of his guitars. Judging by the sound quality, one can only assume it must have been a Cuban cigar box, but don't tell the Feds. The encore brought out Luther's Flying V guitar as well as Lucas Reynolds for a great guitar collaboration, and Chew took over the vocals with his smooth, buttery voice. It was an early show, but NMA effectively wore out the crowd before midnight and the fans slowly filtered out of the chandelier-filled ballroom.
Chris Chew :: 09.30
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