Review: North Mississippi Allstars @ The Ruby Lounge, Manchester

North Mississippi Allstars have come a long way since their entry onto the music scene in the late 90s as the saviours of southern blues.

Last night’s gig at the Ruby Lounge represented the band’s return to the sound that made them famous as they presented their new album Prayer for Peace.

The former Grammy nominees released their seventh studio album in June, marking their 21st anniversary, and it has been widely well-received by critics.

The legacy of the Allstars, consisting of brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson, was evident in the older nature of the crowd at the city centre venue – many of whom gave the impression that the’d followed the band’s movements since their formation in 1996.

The set-list was what you might expect of a veteran touring act, starting strong with renditions of some of the old classics which formed the group’s folk reputation.

They moved quickly into the new album with the title song Prayer for Peace garnering a strong positive reaction from a decent-sized crowd who themselves seemed experts in classic southern blues.

The musicians also showed their pedigree with heartfelt renditions of R.L. Burnside’s Long Haired Doney and Frank McDowell’s You Got to Move.

The brothers, sons of legendary Memphis musician and record producer Jim Dickinson, grew up in the music scene at a time when both blues and country music were reaching their peak.

This education has always permeated the sound they put out and was on show not just in the music but also the feel of the gig, harking back to acts like Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder making a name for themselves while jamming in smoky southern bars.

While the Dickinsons may not be young up-and-comers these days, they still maintain the commitment to the genre which brought them success.

Luther’s sliding guitar riffs and spontaneous-sounding solos still play as well today as they did 20 years ago, and Cody’s rhythmic snare and cymbal work combined with occasional samples continue to provide a perfect foundation.

For a band that prides themselves on representing the golden age of blues and country, the Allstars are still able to capture the feel of that era even two decades on. 

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