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By: Ike Riddick
Photography by Jerry Friend
With the sun still hovering just above the tall pines which surround Koko Booth Amphitheater, Luther and Cody Dickinson along with their band - the North Mississippi Allstars, navigated their way to the stage to ignite an evening full of musical delight. "Let It Roll" kick started their set as late comers scrambled to find open spots to setup camp for the night. Always adding and subtracting lineups to keep things fresh, the Allstars added a tuba player and some backup singers (borrowed from Tedeschi Trucks Band) for this tour which seemed to really work.
Having seen the brothers Dickinson perform several times before in various venues, I was still blown away at the musicianship and creativity they bring to each and every show they play. Whether Luther is trying to coax a sleazy vibrato sound via slide from his Gibson ES-335 or thumping the strings on his homemade coffee can guitar, he gets the most out of his instruments that they have to offer. Cody on the other hand is the master of multi-tasking as he often bangs on his drum kit, plays the bass, guitar, or keyboard, and sings - simultaneously. I guess they come by this talent honestly as their father, the late Jim Dickinson, was a well known musician and record producer in the Memphis area for decades.
Some of the more notable songs from the North Mississippi Allstars set included "Back Back Train", "Mean Ol' Wind Died Down", and "ML". The only complaint I had with their set was that it was too short and I wanted more North Mississippi Allstars.
Los Lobos, translation "the wolves", took the stage next with their unique brand of Tex-Mex Americana roots rock as the heat of the day was finally beginning to subside with the sun settling below the tree-lined amphitheater. Originating in East Los Angeles, California in 1973, David Hidalgo and his bandmates have stood the test of time and have won critical acclaim as evidenced by their multiple Grammy Awards. In 1987 with the release of a Ritchie Valens' cover, "La Bamba", they topped both the US and UK charts. If I have to be totally honest, I was very impressed that Los Lobos did not play the aforementioned song as it seemed to label them for many years as a "pop" like ensemble. Trust me, they are anything but that as they are all talented musicians who love to engage in prolonged jam sessions.
"Lose My Mind" (Little Water cover), "Gates Of Gold" - from the band's newest album release of the same name (2015), and "Bertha (Grateful Dead cover) got the crowd fired up and moving to the music. But Los Lobos' defining moment was their amazing rendition of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" featuring the soulful voice of Susan Tedeschi and the guitar playing of Derek Trucks who accompanied them on stage.
As night fell and the temperature cooled down just a tad, the Tedeschi Trucks Band heated things back up as they took ownership of the Koko Booth stage. Armed with his signature red Gibson SG, her with a tobacco sunburst Fender Stratocaster and a truly one-of-a-kind made to sing the blues voice, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi launched into "Don't Know What It Means" to open their incredible set. Next up was a cover of the late Joe Cocker's "The Letter" to officially start the party.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band is like no other touring act today – a sprawling, howling 12-piece band that swings just as hard as it rocks, cutting across genres to deliver the bona fide goods. – Albany Times Union
Demonstrating his prowess with the slide, Trucks made his Gibson speak the language of the "blues" as he played the intro to "Bound For Glory" - much to the delight of all the TTB fans gathered inside the amphitheater. The low-key Trucks is not only a great guitarist with perhaps the most humble attitude of anyone in the industry, but he is also a great bandleader who knows when to give others the spotlight and allow them to shine. Add in a steady dose of Tedeschi's powerful and soul cleansing vocals to go along with the guitars, horns and percussion - and you have the ingredients for "magic" to happen before your very eyes and ears.
Strapping on his Gibson, Luther Dickinson joined the band on stage to pay homage to the late George Jones with a cover of The Possum's "Color Of The Blues". David Hidalgo also joined in on the action as he mesmerized the crowd with his guitar solo in Elmore James' classic "The Sky Is Crying" while Tedeschi's searing vocals filled every nook and cranny of the amphitheater. What an impressive performance that had all patrons on their feet clamoring for more.
In support of their newest album release, Let Me Get By (2016), the band played the title track to pure perfection showcasing all components of the 12-piece ensemble both individually and collectively. As I listen to the new album more and more, I hear different influences ranging from the Beatles to David Bowie, yes Ziggy Stardust himself. Of course it still has the Southern boogie and blues vibe going on and is most definitely a must have for any fan of the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
Let Me Get By is an absorbing, self-assured, artistic leap forward. - Guitar World
"Let's Go Get Stoned", a cover by The Coasters, concluded the show as the Tedeschi Trucks Band bid everyone farewell until the next time. To sum up the Wheels Of Soul Tour 2016 show, it was a show where MUSIC was the focal point and individual egos were checked at the gate, unlike many shows I have attended in the past. Kudos to the North Mississippi Allstars, Los Lobos, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Job well done!
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