Goin’ Home with the North Mississippi Allstars


North Mississippi Allstars with Hill Country Revue
Minglewood Hall
Memphis, Tennessee
December 19, 2009

When bands play hometown shows, they tend to deliver high-quality results, but it was a bittersweet moment for the North Mississippi Allstars to come home to Minglewood Hall on December 19 for their first local show since patriarch Jim Dickinson passed away in August.

hcr-1.jpgGuitarist Luther Dickinson said it best when he told the crowd how he, Duwayne Burnside and David Kimbrough had been backstage discussing how all of their "daddies are gone" and how it was up to them to carry on the Mississippi hill country blues tradition. If the North Mississippi Allstars have proven anything over the years, it’s that they were more than capable of carrying the torch, and the Minglewood show was yet more proof of that fact.

Hill Country Revue opened the show, and illustrated why this band must be considered more than just a side project. They’re a really tight unit, and it gives Cody Dickinson a chance to get out from behind a drum kit to show he’s not the only guitar-playing Dickinson brother.

However, if theres an MVP of the HCR, it’s unquestionably guitarist Kirk Smithhart, a vastly underrated player who has the chops to stand next to an amazing guitarist like Dickinson and push him. HCR played a great show, offering up choice cuts from their debut disc, Mississippi hill country blues standards, and a spendidly hard-edged take on Memphian Don Nix’s "Goin’ Down."

hcr-2.jpgThe crowd was good and warmed up by the time the North Mississippi Allstars took the stage. From the opening notes of "Write Me A Few Lines," it was evident that the band was happy to be home.

After raucous jaunts through "Shake" and "Stay All Night > Lord Have Mercy," Luther commented on how the band was just a few songs in and had already deviated from the setlist – it was clear that this would be a special show, and that not even the musicians on stage knew where it would be headed.

After bassist Chris Chew led the band on a leisurely stroll through "I’d Love To Be A Hippy" and the contrasting semi-rage of "Keep The Devil Down," the Allstars took their first opportunity to stretch out with "Mean ‘Ol Wind Died Down." They warmed up a bit more on the traditional "Shimmy She Wobble," and the show hit stride on "’Po Black Maddie > Skinny Woman > Shake ‘Em On Down," when the guys from Hill Country Revue all joined in.

nma-2.jpgDickinson and Smithhart play well off each other, and the dual lead guitars worked during the instrumental section of "Skinny Woman," delivering an Allman-esque feel.

After each guitarist took a solo, they locked in, playing off each other and building up until they were playing the same lick, one guitarist an octave above the other, until the jam built steam and settled back down into a dual drum solo from Cody Dickinson and Ed "Hot" Cleveland. Rather than segue back into "Po Black Maddie," the song went to "Shake ‘Em On Down."

"Po Boy" was given a slowed down treatment, and once again, the two guitarists stole the show on what may have been the stand-out song of the night.  On the instrumental "Goin’ Home" Cody emerged from behind the drum kit and picked up his guitar, and with three guys on the axe, the stage had a Skynyrd-like feel.

nma-3.jpgOld familiar faces took the stage later in the set; much to the delight of the packed crowd, former Allstar Duwayne Burnside took the stage starting with "Bad Bad Pain." David Kimbrough joined in too, starting with "Meet Me In The City."

Kimbrough handled lead vocal duties on the song, which finally got started after what seemed like ten minutes of the singer/guitarist telling the sound man to "turn him up" so he could hear himself. He also introduced every band member, which took several additional minutes and during which the Allstars tried to get the song going while Kimbrough talked over their playing, to the point where it started to get a little awkward. 

nma-1.jpgWith Dickinson boys, a Kimbrough and a Burnside, it truly was a Mississippi hill country revival; the signature families of the signature music style of the region on stage, doing exactly what they had said backstage that they’d do – carry on the tradition of their departed fathers.  Fittingly, "All Night Long" poured out of the speakers with all three families represented, and their fathers were probably looking down from heaven, smiles on their faces.

The set closed with "Snake Drive," HCR’s Dan Coburn coming back out to help on vocals and lead the audience through a few bars of Memphis rap anthem and "Hustle and Flow" song "Whoop That Trick". After a quick break, the band came back for "No Mo" and "Horseshoe," and the show came to a close. If there’s one thing that’s always been a constant for the North Mississippi Allstars, it’s been family, and while the band lost a huge part of that aspect in 2009, it’s that same factor that’s held them together. The show in Memphis proved that they’ve been able to push forward despite the loss of father Jim, and that family can come in many forms…it might have the same last name, but family could just as easily mean a Burnside, or a Kimbrough…or a Hill Country Revue.

Click the thumbnail to view the photo gallery

Hill Country Revue: My Mind is Ramblin’, Let Me Love You, Alice Mae, Hill Country Revue, Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, Goin’ Down, Georgia Women, You Told My Mama, Joyful Sounds, Dirty Shirt, It’s Alright 

North Mississippi Allstars: Write Me A Few Lines, Drop Down Mama, Someday Baby, Shake, Stay All Night > Lord Have Mercy > Stay All Night, Goin’ Down South, I’d Love To Be A Hippy, Keep The Devil Down, Mean ‘Ol Wind Died Down, Drinking Muddy Water, Shimmy She Wobble >Station Blues > Preachin’ Blues, ‘Po Black Maddie > Skinny Woman1 > Shake ‘Em On Down1, ‘Po Boy2, Lonesome Road2, Goin’ Home2, KC Jones2, Bad Bad Pain3, Meet Me In The City4, All Night Long4 >Lovelight4 >All Night Long4, Snake Drive5
Encore: No Mo, Horseshoe

1 – w/ Kirk Smithart, Ed Cleveland & Daniel Colburn
2 – w/ Kirk Smithart & Ed Cleveland
3 – w/ Duwayne Burnside & Ed Cleveland
4 – w/ w/ Duwayne Burnside, Ed Cleveland & David Kimbrough Jr.
5 – w/ Duwayne Burnside, Ed Cleveland & Daniel Colburn