By Jenny Peters and Andy J. Gordon
Luther and Cody Dickinson have been the core of North Mississippi Allstars for over twenty years and the brothers’ incredible musical talents and deep roots in the delta blues shine through whenever they perform live. So when they brought their blues-influenced Southern rock to The Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood on Thursday, June 15, 2017, it’s no surprise that the show was a rollicking affair with scorching guitar solos, impressive vocals and dynamic drumming.
Duane Betts opened the night’s entertainment, along with a solid band of musicians. Betts is the son of guitarist Dickie Betts, an original member of The Allman Brothers Band. Duane has his father’s fiery guitar chops and played a short set of original tunes and a sweet cover of his father’s Allman Brothers’ classic “Blue Sky.”
Then the Dickinson brothers hit the stage for the North Mississippi Allstars set and immediately raged on a fast, bluesy instrumental before their bassist Dominic Davis joined them onstage. Luther handled most of the vocals and demonstrated his incredible slide-guitar skills during the set. Cody spent most of the time behind the drum kit. He had a small electronic keyboard that he occasionally played with his right hand while not missing a drum beat with his left hand and feet.
The band played a few of the excellent new songs from their recently released, self-produced album, “Prayer For Peace,” including the title track. Older tracks like “Goin’ Down South” and “Po Black Maddie” kept the crowd moving. After performing several of their classics, the brothers showed their versatility by switching instruments, first with Cody on guitar and vocals while Luther played drums for “Let Me In.” Then Dominic Davis took over on drums while Luther and Cody traded guitar licks.
Late in the set, Luther introduced ordained minister, civil rights activist and singer Rev. Osagyefo Sekou who performed “Resist” and “Loving You Is Killing Me” from his debut album “In Times Like These.” The Dickinson brothers produced and played on that recent release. They seemed to truly enjoy accompanying him as he sang.
The Allstars closed the set with a raucous version of their “Shake What Your Mama Gave Ya.” Luther promised to come back with surprises after a short break and he did not disappoint. The band returned with Lucinda Williams, who sang “All Night Long” with Luther. She left the stage to loud applause and Duane Betts came out with his guitar.
The new quartet played some improvisational blues rock that morphed into the Grateful Dead’s “Turn On Your Lovelight.” Cody gave shout outs in memory of three recently deceased musical legends – Butch Trucks, Col. Bruce Hampton and Gregg Allman – as he said, they are “brothers from another mother.” The band then launched into a massively impressive cover of The Allman Brothers’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” with Luther and Duane Betts playing lengthy, inspiring guitar solos before the show, replete with virtuoso performances, ended with an appreciative standing ovation from the rapt crowd.