This was a workshop porch closing set to remember. Jim Lauderdale and the North Mississippi Allstars combined to play some new stuff they’re working on and other musical goodies.
The two acts have been recording and performing together recently, after mutual friend Buddy Miller introduced them. Someone said earlier today that it seemed like an odd combination. I hope that person was at the workshop porch to hear this show, which turned out to be an easy combo among kindred souls who respect each other as people and musicians.
Lauderdale, best known for singing country and bluegrass and writing a hit country song or two, has the kind of expressive phrasing that can turn to soul, R&B and blues without sounding even a little bit contrived.
“Soul brother No. 1,” NMA guitarist Luther Dickinson said of Lauderdale after they finished the slow-burn 12/8 of “Worth The Wait,” recorded recently with Muscle Shoals sound heayweights David Hood and Spooner Oldham. NMA core members Luther and Cody Dickinson fit that purely southern music style via DNA, as sons of the recently deceased producer Jim Dickinson — not to mention the siblings’ own many and varied musical adventures.
Lauderdale had sung phrases in that number that brought smiles from the comping Luther Dickinson, who also had plenty to say with his guitar break. Cody Dickinson, with just a kick drum, snare drum, high hats and tambourine, showed as so many FloydFest drummer have over the years that this is all you need to play great drum set.
“This is like a dream,” Lauderdale said of working with the brothers.
In honor of Miller, the trio broke out a version of Lauderdale and Miller’s “I Lost My Job of Loving You.” Other numbers included some of Lauderdale’s co-writes with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, such as “Bull By The Horns — “live for today … be careful to share the wealth,” Lauderdale sang.
They closed with another one Hunter helped write, “Headed for The Hills,” with Luther Dickinson getting some honky-tonk beauty out of his Gibson hollowbody, and Lauderdale coaxing an audience a cappella singalong at the end.
Offstage was NMA bassist Lightnin’ Malcolm, who some Southwest Virginia audience have seen playing with Cedric Burnside and Cameron Kimbrough. With the diabetes-related medical problems of NMA bassist Chris Chew, Malcolm is on the gig. He was not part of the NMA Lauderdale trio.
We spoke after the set, and he mentioned that he has a new solo album, “Rough Out There.” Dude can scare you with his North Mississippi Hill Country trance blues fingerpicking, incorporating bass and guitar lines together while he sings. So it’s a clear bet that he knocks it out on bass with the Allstars. I missed the full band’s Hill Holler set, which preceded the porch show. Looking forward to hearing him with the Dickinsons tonight for the after party.
And if you’re here by chance and haven’t heard, that party is open to all this time, after the logistical troubles of Thursday and the rain-induced quagmire of Saturday.