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North Mississippi Allstars live at Sweetwater Music Hall

The other night a friend invited me out to the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley to see the North Mississippi Allstars. It was mid week and pouring with rain, and yet the Sweetwater was completely sold out. We have seen this band three times together in the past decade. However, at this show there was a big difference, and that was that this bands' sound has evolved into a jammy style, possibly to suit this location. At one point in the show, Luther (on lead guitar and vocals), mentioned spending a lot of time at Terrapin Crossroads and he said that it was this area and that venue that was a strong influence on the sound they are producing now.

The North Mississippi Allstars began in 1996 by brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson. Their father, Jim Dickinson was a music producer and musician in Memphis. The group won a Blues Music Award for Best New Artist Debut in 2001. They are sometimes a duet, and sometimes they're three or four players depending on the gig. On this rainy evening at The Sweetwater, bassist Chris Chew played with the brothers and made it a trio.

Normally I pay a lot of attention to the drummer, and at this show I noticed at many points whilst watching Cody play, looking as if he was staring up at the ceiling in a deep trance. Interesting to watch him. At one point he let loose and had a great drum solo. But by far the best part of the show for me was when Cody, Luther and Chris swapped instruments. Chris sat at the drum kit, Luther played the bass and Cody grabbed a guitar and sang lead vocals about three quarters the way through their 2+ hour set. Excellent twist.

The first couple times we saw this band they had a really cool contemporary bluesy, swampy sound. As soon as the Sweetwater show began it was apparent that the swampy blues sound I had originally liked them for was replaced with the jam band sound. Appropriate for the area and this audience, as many people that were there appeared to be loving the jam band thing. I've never been a fan of the jam band sound and I've never been a dead head, but this show was fun and the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley is always a great stress free venue to see a show at. With or without the rain!


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