DELTA BLUES GET MILE HIGH

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


Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins :: 09.30
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.

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.


Luther Dickinson :: 09.30
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.


Cody 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.


Chris Chew :: 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.

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[Published on: 10/9/06]

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Comments

pat5507 starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/9/2006 07:07PM
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pat5507

I love NMAllstars I saw them last year in ATL at the Variety and they played for like 3 1/2 hours or more. The Dickinson bros are great, especially Luther

Luthur Mon 10/9/2006 08:06PM
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I superdig the Allstars.

Question. NMAS plays hill country blues. Not the delta blues this author repeatedly claimed. Actually, they were heavily influenced by the hill country blues. IN any event, am I wrong to think the author is wrong in this article with the headline and repeated references to the delta blues? I'm no expert on blues by any means, but it was always my understanding they were two different things. Hence the name North Mississippi Allstar (North = Hill Country). South Mississippi is delta country. Unless I'm just wrong. Little help, please!

danalog star Mon 10/9/2006 09:21PM
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danalog

I love NMA and I love the blues! And, I hate it when people leave negative comments about a band after reading about them in the first place....but this is not about the band. This article is pretty bad. Who cares what Luther was wearing? This is the blues. And why does Cody's new washboard setup have to be compared to Fishman? This is Cody. I'm sorry for the negativity, but this is a website for MUSIC lovers, not druely kids who love rockstars. Anyways, there's my two pennies. Keep up the discussion of good MUSIC!

T.Ivey starstarstar Mon 10/9/2006 10:00PM
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Luther...you're somewhat right. North Mississippi is hill country, but the Delta is also somewhat in the north. There is a definate difference in styles, just a confusion in geography.

Ching starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/9/2006 10:28PM
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Delta Blues doesnt mean south MS...Delta is in northern Ms and along the river...not really South MS...

Delta Blues is a lil more slower...North Hills blues is lil more african...kinda like fife and drum thing....It can get technical...

msnative starstar Tue 10/10/2006 06:22AM
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You are right: "Delta Blues" do not necessarily derive from South Mississippi, and the Delta does reach into the Northern part of the state. However, the author did incorrectly characterize the Allstars as playing "Delta Blues." They are heavily influenced by Hill Country Blues, and primarily play their own style of Hill Country Blues. After all, they grew up in the hill country of Mississippi - as did I. Further, their live album is called "Hill Country Review." While Blues is Blues, there are certain, distinct sub-categories of the great music.

All Loving Liberal White Guy Tue 10/10/2006 11:04AM
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All Loving Liberal White Guy

i was watching that movie "the wizard" with fred savage about that autustic video game prodigy and jenny lewis was in it. she was like 12 at the time and wicked sassy. i think she used to be a regular on old nickeloedon shows too.

Luthur Wed 10/11/2006 07:46AM
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Stratman, Ching, and Msnative - Thanks!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstar Mon 10/23/2006 12:01PM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

Yes.. There are many sub-categories of Blues music, Memphis Blues, and Chicago blues are very different, just like delta blues and Hill country blues. yes its kinda technical..
For U Jamheads, it would be in your best interest to go see all the Blues greats before they die. You wouldnt believe how bad ass buddy guy is til u see him, or how groovy bb king is, not to mention they are both great showmen, they talk to the audience, make great jokes and even ad lib their songs at times. I am immensly grateful for having seen buddy guy and bb king twice each.. I Hope I see bo diddley before its too late, I also did get to see rl burnside once.
NMA takes their cues from many blues greats, and I am thankful for blues music.. Afterall, blues aint about feeling bad, its about making others feel worse. peace ya'll

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstar Mon 10/23/2006 12:08PM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

Chris Chew sure is getting FAT. :-) peace ya'll..