Allstars shake down WorkPlay


North Mississippi Allstars
WorkPlay Theatre
Birmingham, Alabama
December 28, 2010

An Allstar evening was had by all at WorkPlay on Tuesday, December 28, courtesy of the power trio from north Mississippi. Though the performance was in the middle of the work week, the holiday spirit brought fans young and old out in droves to see the North Mississippi Allstars perform.

The normally intimate setting was brimming with bodies – both levels of seats were tightly packed and the floor was elbow to elbow with people.  Anticipation was high, as everyone prepared for a great night of rockin’ Southern blues. The people had come to the right place: the North Mississippi Allstars most definitely did NOT disappoint.

ks1.jpgThe theatre was packed early with excited fans, and Kirk Smithhart (Hill Country Revue) and his band kicked off the night for the standing room only crowd. The electrified buzz continued to build throughout the night, with Kirk Smithhart Band’s melodious encouragement. The rock trio (Smithhart – guitar/vocals;  Zack Farley – bass; David Mason – drums) had the crowd’s heads nodding to their simple yet driving beats.

While Smithhart and his fellow band mate Farley talked, joked, and interacted with the crowd, drummer Mason brought flash and pizazz with his one-handed sticking and photo-posing combinations. Their set was highlighted by "Midnight," a traditional 12-bar blues tune written by Smithhart on Beale Street when he was 18. The functional form allowed ample room for each member to improvisationally strut his stuff while the audience ate it up. The Smithhart trio fulfilled their duties of gearing up the crowd for the musical goodness to come.

The North Mississippi Allstars attacked the stage with a feverish energy, opening with a medley of popular hits including "Sugartown," thrilling the audience. The band’s electric grooves and flowing lyrics caused the patrons to shake what their mommas gave them from the very beginning of the set. 

nma1.jpgWith all of the musical irons the group of brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson and Chris Chew have in the fire, it is good to know the quality of NMA is unwavering. Luther led the group down a more gritty, dark alley from the upbeat top of the show with the sounds of "Keep the Devil Down." Big Chew, never one to be outdone, danced around on stage to each new jamming groove.

Chew then took his time in the spotlight and brought the tempo down to sing the slow, bluesy "I’d Love to be a Hippy" as the crowd joined in agreement. The group’s set was full of ebb and flow, with each song rising from the previous one and landing exactly in its home on the set list.

At one particularly mesmerizing point in the show, Cody put down his drum sticks, picked up a guitar, and the three played an improv-filled instrumental melody, allowing the brothers to jam family-style.

Smithhart and Mason joined the group on stage later to lend a musical hand, as Cody picked up the electric washboard and played what can only be described as the baddest washboard solo in history.

The long set was driven home with a particularly raucous version of "Snake Drive", leaving the mostly fulfilled audience wanting just a little more.

Luther ventured back on the stage for a solo encore song. With his newly crafted lyrics taped to his amp, he belted out a smooth and soulful "Birmingham Blues," written especially for the city. The song put a finger-snapping spin on the tale of Mayor Langford and the troubles he brought to the iron city.

Following this sweet serenade, Cody came back out with his trusty washboard, Chew got comfortable on a stool, and the group finished the night out in style. NMA laid down solid grooves, rockin’ melodies, and had the audience shimmying and shaking all night long. 

As the satisfying concert came to an end and the house lights were raised, the group shook hands with the audience, giving heartfelt thanks and well wishes for the holidays and the new year.  Here’s to more North Mississippi Allstar shake downs in 2011!

Click the thumbnail for the photos: