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North Mississippi Allstars bring Southern swamp rock to the City

NMA_postPhotos by Kory Thibeault // Written by Steven Wandrey //

North Mississippi Allstars with Lightnin Malcolm //
The Independent – San Francisco
February 1st, 2014 //

North Mississippi Allstars rolled through the Independent for a two night stand on January 31 & February 1. Hot off the heels of a late 2013 tour promoting their album World Boogie Is Coming, a varied setlist was somewhat expected. While it was quite similar to that last tour, the group explored cuts from all of their albums while delving a bit deeper into their catalog. Opening act Lightnin’ Malcolm would join the Allstar brothers Luther and Cody on bass for the entirety of the night. These three have been hitting the road hard and Malcolm seems to have fully jelled with the other two.

The North Mississippi Allstars’ sound is steeped in the tradition of southern blues rock, but they gently push the boundaries of what you might expect if you think they’re a one trick pony. They walk the line between foot stompin’ southern rock, soul wrenching blues, and concise jamming. In club settings, the Allstars choose their extended jam spots and segues sparingly, opting for a bit more of a straight forward approach to “keep the channel changing” fairly consistently. They save the experimental and psych rock jamming for festival shows as far as I’ve witnessed, and this show was not an exception.

The crowd’s energy was palpable on Saturday. The show got off to a fast start, and although Luther was a little high in the mix, the issue was quickly resolved. After the opening number “Boogie” they turned to a raucous cover of “Sittin On Top of the World” and the crowd danced along accordingly. The energy rarely let up, displaying the Allstar’s adept ability to control the tempo and pacing of the night.

Cohesion was a theme I noticed often. The band has been touring relentlessly for a while now, and their comfort on stage is plain to see. Their playing is extremely tight, exhibiting complete control when choosing to slide in and out of jam sections and segue into new songs.

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They’re all able to play each other’s instruments, too. At one point, Luther and Malcolm switched instruments. Then, the drummer started playing a washboard, Malcolm got on drums, and Luther got on bass. It’s always a treat to see bands rotate instruments and the Allstars do it well. Malcolm leads his own band as a lead guitar player so you know he has no problem taking charge. I thought there’d be a set break, but after a huge rendition of “Shake (Yo Mama)” the trio decided to do some more instrument changing. This time, they all got on drums and percussion and walked them through the audience. After a band-crowd get-down, the Allstars got back up on stage and played for seemed like another 40 minutes (for a total of about two hours).

Now it’s time to mention Luther’s guitar. Put simply, he rips. Often times, the other two members will offer a groovy backdrop, setting the stage for Luther to run away with it. His slide guitar work on “Crazy Bout You” featured this prowess. His tone on a song like “Turn Up Satan” is muddy, dirty, and soaked in soul, and I was pleased to hear it used for the majority the night.

The North Mississippi Allstars consistently bring their A game and fill anyone’s need for a foot-shufflin’ good time on a Saturday night. Though it’d be nice if they varied the set lists more from night to night, they’re always a lock to make the crowd smile and bring out a little bit of those Southern sensibilities that you may not have known were inside you.

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Comments

  1. Tami Goldsmith says:

    Excellent!

  2. Great shots Kory.

let's hear it!

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