North Mississippi AllstarFebruary 26, 2010Highline BallroomNew York, NYTaped and Transferred by T.J. Samulis
Thursday, April 8, 2010
South Memphis String Band -04.02.2010 - World Cafe Live (Upstairs)
Last Friday I was extremely privileged to have an opportunity to see the South Memphis String Band perform at the World Cafe Live. The trio of Luther Dickinson, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Jimbo Mathus all have found success in their respected musical endeavors: Heart as a Grammy winning solo blues musician, Mathis with the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Dickinson with the North Mississippi Allstars and the Black Crowes. They brought along Justin Showah on upright acoustic bass as an added bonus to the String Band. The four musicians took their seats on the stage, cluttered with a wide array of instruments, ready to entertain. It was confirmed by Mathus early on that every instrument would be played and the mic would be passed between musicians all night.
And with that the room was transported to a front porch in South Memphis from yesteryear. The String Band played a collection of covers and originals rich with folklore. The first part of the set was highlighted by Worry 'Bout Your Own Backyard, Bootlegger's Blues, Deep Blue Sea and a cover of Woody Guthrie's Hard Travelin'.
Prior to Carrier Line, Mathus acknowledged the life work of Alan Lomax saying "[the song Carrier Line] might have been lost to time...if it wasn't for the magic of recording technology." If your not familiar, Lomax is a pioneer responsible for accummulating one of the largest collection of folk music through his job with the Library of Congress. He brought portable recording equpipment on location and captured interviews and performances of folk musicians amongst other things. Although the circumstances are different, I feel us "tapers" still play that role of preserving music for future generations. It was definitely gratifying to hear musicians acknowledge the efforts made to record live music on location.
The second half of the show was the most laid back AND absolutely raging set I've heard in a while. It was the heat even considering the relaxed nature of the show. What started with Carrier Line led right into Bloody Bill, a song they wrote on the way to their first gigs. I don't know much about the Civil War leader, but the I'm still scared shitless after this song. Using a flute, the jawbone of some large animal and a guitar that looked like a cigar box the four created some haunting themes.
Luther Dickinson then took over for about ten minutes and proved outside the electric realm why he is still king. He lead the band through a melody tunes including the NMA tune Mississippi Boll Weevil that was damn near perfect. Overall, I couldn't ask for a better show from this group. The level of playing from all four was top notch. Definitely check it out for yourself: