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Hill Country Blues in Milwaukee

What happens when a band with a Best Blues Rock Album BMA nomination comes to town, bringing their opener, who also happens to have a BMA nomination for Band of the Year?

Lots of fun, smiles, and dancing is what happened! North Mississippi Allstars brought their ‘Up and Rolling’ tour to Milwaukee on 01/15/20 at Turner Hall. This tour promotes Up and Rolling, their latest album, which has been nominated for a 41st Blues Music Award (BMA) in the Blues Rock Album category, and I believe it is their best album to date!  Luther (guitars) and Cody Dickinson (drums, washboard, guitar), along with Jesse Williams (their new bassist), brought the perfect blend of new and old Mississippi Hill Country Blues.

North Mississippi Allstars Luther Dickinson 2

Mississippi Hill Country Blues

Otha Turner, David “Junior” Kimbrough, and R.L. Burnside are known to have popularized the style of blues known as Hill Country. Otha was legendary for playing the American fife and percussion while Junior and R.L. were known for their unique guitar playing which did not follow traditional Delta or Chicago style blues. Their finger structure was different and they placed a heavy emphasis on “the groove,” including percussion. Luther and Cody developed their music from these men and others, hence their use of “Allstars” in the name of North Mississippi Allstars. There’s a hypnotic sound with Hill Country Blues which Luther and Cody play it forward while being respectful of the historic Hill Country sound, not easily replicated.

North Mississippi Allstars Jesse Williams 4

Definitely see North Mississippi Allstars live

The album features several guests: including Mavis Staples, Jason Isbell, Cedric Burnside (grandson of R.L. Burnside), Duane Betts, and even previously recorded vocals of Otha Turner, as well as Tierinii and Tikyra Jackson of Southern Avenue. I wasn’t the least bit concerned with how Luther and Cody would pull this off without all of the guests because Luther and Cody are pretty fascinating to witness live. Their improvisations are to such an extent that you don’t even think about which guest sang or played what on the album. Part of their improvising, in Milwaukee, included having Tikyra Jackson sing a few songs from the album. We also enjoyed watching Luther play a can guitar, and everyone dug Cody playing the electric washboard.

North Mississippi Allstars Cody Dickinson 5

What’s next?

‘Rolling and Tumbling’ tour continues, routing throughout the United States, through the end of April. If you follow Luther and/or Cody, then you know, or will soon learn, they also have several great side projects.

Southern Avenue opened for North Mississippi Allstars

Southern Avenue 9

Southern Avenue is Tierinii Jackson (vocals), Tikyra Jackson (drums/percussion/vocals), Ori Naftaly (guitar), Jeremy Powell (keys), Evan Sarver (bass), and they are nominated for a 41st Blues Music Award (BMA) for Best Band. Their latest album Keep On has a 2020 Grammy Nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album.  This was my second time covering their Milwaukee appearance and they continue to impress! Tierinii Jackson is one of the most passionate fronts of any current band I can think of regardless of the genre as she makes sure everyone in the audience feels her vibe.  As a photographer, I can say she is one heck of a challenge to capture with all her energy and moves as she pours her soul on stage.

Southern Avenue 21

This band will knock you out!

As pre-show discussions go, those of us who are Southern Avenue fans were able to share what we dig about this band with those who were not familiar by explaining how this band will knock you out! Souls are shared, whether it’s Jeremy’s keyboard playing,  Ori’s guitarwork, Tikyra’s drumming/percussion, or Tierinni’s voice. There’s no mistaking this is a band who is seriously going to continue to become known. I happen to enjoy their version of ‘Rock Steady’ and by the look of the Turner Hall crowd, the audience agreed.  They performed tracks from their Grammy-nominated album, including: ‘Whiskey Love,’ ‘Switchup,’ ‘Tea I Sip;’ and also ‘Don’t Give Up,’ off their self titled album.

Southern Avenue 30

 What’s Next?

Southern Avenue has a few more dates to open for North Mississippi Allstars. Then they have several dates opening for Galactic and other bands including Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and Los Lobos.

If you dig Memphis Soul,  you don’t want to miss Southern Avenue!

See full gallery of the night here!

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