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A Thanksgiving holiday North Mississippi Allstars feast

North Mississippi Allstars
Minglewood Hall
Memphis, TN
November 29, 2013

As the North Mississippi Allstars took the stage the Friday after Thanksgiving, it was clear that this would be a night to remember, a show for the ages.


The Allstars’ holiday Memphis shows have long been a storied tradition, a recurring page in the book that is their career. But, as the band’s drum line meandered through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at Minglewood Hall, one couldn’t help but notice that the vibe in the packed room was different.

For one, there were video cameras – everywhere. The band was shooting the evening for a concert video, and along with the two hand-held cameras that roamed the stage throughout the show and the platform-mounted steadycam in the photo pit, the band encouraged the audience to shoot with their cell phones and submit the videos.

But, for all the hoopla, the music is always first with the Allstars, and there would be plenty of music – three-plus hours, to be sure. The band took the stage from the back of the room – they had a drumline that started at the back and made their way through the crowd and up to the stage with the traditional “Shimmy She Wobble > My Babe > Station Blues.” From there, they proceeded to do what the Allstars do – take Mississippi Hill Country blues and kick it in the ass.

“Turn Up Satan,” a song from the new World Boogie Is Coming, was one of the few newer songs that made its way into the setlist, and it was a good way to lead up to the always-fun “Shake ‘Em On Down.”

Guitarist/vocalist Luther Dickinson’s stage presence was front and center, and as he unleased note after beautiful note during “Shake ‘Em,”  the smile on his face was infectious. He was clearly in his element, in full command of his hometown crowd. When musicians bring their A game (as Dickinson always does), and do it with a smile, it certainly makes for a more enjoyable show.


The band was at its finest when it turned the stage into a full-on party, though. “Meet Me In The City” had the first “guest” of the evening, Duwayne Burnside, on backup vocals. These holiday Allstars shows are never just the Allstars, and they’re not meant to be – they’re family celebrations.

“Mean ‘Ol Wind Died Down” was huge as usual, starting slow but building into a monstrous jam. However, it was also one of the songs where it was abundantly clear that the band misses Chris Chew’s immense presence on stage.

Chew’s background vocals leant themselves well to some of the band’s more gospel-blues-sounding tunes, and when the Allstars perform them today, something’s just not there.

There was certainly nothing missing from “Jumper On The Line,” though. By this time, Cody Dickinson had shed a layer of clothing or two, strapped on a Viking helmet, and was running from side to side of the photo pit, washboard in hand. Ever the showman, he climbed onto the rail more than once to play in the crowd.

At this point, there were literally eight people on stage. T-Model Ford’s grandson Stud had taken over on drums, Luther had Lightnin’ Malcolm’s bass, and Malcolm, Kenny Brown, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Duwayne Burnside were all on guitar. It was probably the jam of the evening, and fortunately caught on video for posterity, because it captured the essence of what the Allstars are about – family.

Burnside left during “Jumper,” only to return in costume – the Red Rooster – for “Snake Drive,” and the band closed their set with “Granny, Does Your Dog Bite.”


By this point, the band had been on stage for nearly two hours, and the crowd began to thin. When they returned from their encore break, the room had began to empty out, but the band would soldier on for about another hour.

“Po Black Maddie > Skinny Woman” was as phenomenal as ever, and Luther did his best Jimi Hendri impression on “Hear My Train ‘A Comin’ > Goin’ Down South.”

As good as the music was, the band probably played about 30 minutes too long. Sure, they were recording a video and wanted to capture everything, but by the end of the show, the crowd probably about 50% of what it did at the beginning of the show. It’ll sure be interesting to see how they cut the video, because any shots from the stage out onto the crowd from late in the night will show a mostly empty room, which is in sharp contrast to the start of the show.

Either way, the night was chock-full of amazing moments that were fortunately captured on video. The Allstars are a band that always delivers, especially at their traditional holiday show in front of their friends and family. 2013’s event was no different in that respect.

Set:  Shimmy She Wobble > My Babe > Station Blues, Turn Up Satan, Shake ‘Em On Down, Meet Me In The City*, Shake, Goat Meat, Psychedelic Sex Machine > Mystery Train ,  Back Back Train, Boogie**, Hodown, Mississippi Boll Weevil, Mean Ol’ Wind Died Down, World Boogie, Jumper On The Line***, Snake Drive****, Granny, Does Your Dog Bite*****

Encore:  Rollin’ ‘n Tumblin’, Let It Roll, The Meeting, Up Over Yonder, Po’ Black Maddie^ > Skinny Woman^, K.C. Jones, Goin’ To Brownsville, Hear My Train ‘A Comin’ jam > Goin’ Down South > Lord, Have Mercy On Me > Stay All Night outro, All Night Long^^, Goin’ Home

* Chantell and Cherise, Duwayne Burnside and Sharde Thomas on vocals
** Stud on snare drum, Alvin Youngblood Hart on harmonica
*** Duwayne Burnside, Kenny Brown, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Lightnin’ Malcolm on guitars, Luther Dickinson on bass, Stud on drums, Cody Dickinson on washboard
**** Kenny Brown, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Lightnin’ Malcolm on guitars, Duwayne Burnside on vocals and guitar
*****  Sharde Thomas on fife/vocals, Luther on bass drum, Cody Dickinson, Lightnin’ Malcolm and Stud on snare drums
^ R.L. Boyce on bass drum
^^ Lightnin’ Malcolm and Kenny Brown on guitars, Cody Dickinson on guitar/washboard, Stud on drums, Luther Dickinson on bass

Click the thumbnails to view the photos by Josh Mintz

Birthday memories and flying hot dogs

Another birthday is lurking around the corner for me.  It has me recollecting all of these inevitable occasions to date and wondering which ones will stand the test of time to eventually become classified as the best of the best.

Easily, the last twenty birthdays of my life have been spent seeing live music.  This time around, it falls on the second day of July.  Since a popular summer holiday is always nearby, it’s always been pretty easy for me to get festive.  

To date, there are only a couple of these celebrations that stand out as unforgettable.  A favorite birthday of my childhood was at age 8.  (My parents were 26 at the time).  My father had earned a work bonus of a week’s rental of a cabin on a lake, choosingto use it over the first week in July.  My parents planned to combine my birthday party with a July 4th party, so my dad carefully boxed up his Akai reel to reel and speakers into our 1968 Cherry Red SS Imapla, grabbed the wife, kids and dog, and we were off.  

A large gathering of family and friends came out to enjoy the waterfront property and celebrate.  As I recall, they were blaring the likes of Grand Funk Railroad, The Guess Who, Steve Miller Band, and Three Dog Night.  Kegs were flowing and I can remember everyone really taking in the gorgeous day.  At dusk there were not too many kids my age left at the gathering. 

My younger sister and I were kicking back after a long hot day in the water and enjoying some potato salad when we looked up and noticed my dad's best friend was getting pretty loaded.  We were giggling at how loud he had become and were mocking his attempt to communicate some “adult idea” he had.

Before we knew it, he entered and then came out of the cabin running, buck naked.  He circled the entire parameter of the property with beer in hand and everyone was laughing with (at?) him for his choice to streak the party.  I guess in 1974 that was a hip thing to do.

My six year old sister and I had never seen an adult do such a thing.  It was hard to forget for the remainder of that summer, and more than once we laughed at the thought of his sunburned back and lily white butt running around, Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" serving as a soundtrack. 

After that, I think my favorite birthdays were spent seeing the Grateful Dead.  Quite often July 2 would be near the kick-off date for an entire summer tour.  The year I turned 23 was when I decided to hit the road and see an entire summer tour.  (I did two more entire summer tours after that as well). 

This first year stands out for me because I chose to fly – one way – from Minneapolis to Foxboro, Massachusetts and get myself home by way of ridesharing my way west to Alpine Valley in East Troy, WI.   My college roommate met me there with my car and I drove us back to home to Minnesota.  All rides that summer were, of course, arranged from the parking lot.

I vividly remember getting off of that airplane and feeling so open to whatever the road was going to bring me in the weeks to come.  I met a lot of great people that summer and truly enjoyed the freedom of traveling solo, moving about as I wished and not really ever feeling alone a single moment of it.  I had no trouble finding a ride from show to show and even less difficulty finding conversation from town to town.  

The music that was played that summer was spectacular fun witness.  There are few bands out there whose music helped define and shape my youth the way the Grateful Dead’s did.  I feel honored to have jumped on the tail end of their career and experienced them live the way they were meant to be experienced.  I intently explored their music with about as much passion as anyone could.  

The birthday kick off show in Foxboro was one of my favorites of the run because of the company I kept that day.  I remember thinking that Boston must be a really cool place to be in summer and vowed to come back.  The single most random birthday oddity occurred at the end of the day and is something I will never forget. 

I was walking out of the stadium floor area while talking with the random hippie dude who joined me for the second set.  Suddenly, out of no where I got nailed with a hot dog. 

Just like that. 

A friggin big ol’ hot dog with ketchup (no bun) hit me right in temple. 

Mortified, I looked at the hippie as he looked back at me and said “I hate it when that happens.”  We looked up and examined the bleachers above where it came flying, and laughed hysterically for a few minutes, trying to pick out just which Jersey boy was guilty.  We gave up, and parted ways.  I never saw that guy again.  I’m not sure if I will ever laugh that hard again in my life.  

My next birthday lands on a Monday and I have to work.  I of course didn’t let that stop me from planning a live music journey near the date.  If there is one thing you can count on in Seattle on the fourth of July, it's rain.  Being the summer celebrator I am, I have decided to hit the road, find some heat and get myself to Kenny Brown's Hill Country Picnic in Potts Camp, MS. 

I’m hopeful the event will provide me with just the right amount of warmth, joy and celebratory libations to mark the year as special.  

This year I anticipate some down home fun to call my own.  I don’t think I will see any Southern streakers, and I sure hope I don’t get hit with any flying picnic food, but I know something random and odd will happen just the same.