When Cain's Ballroom opens its doors this Friday night, there's plenty for Tulsa's music fans to get excited about. When Cody and Luther Dickinson return to the Ballroom with North Mississippi All Stars, you know it's going to be an awesome night of music. The two brothers soaked up the musical legacy of their father, Jim Dickinson, who was a staple of the Memphis music scene, producing everyone from Screamin' Jay Hawkins to Big Star to The Replacements and playing keyboards on studio sessions with legends like The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin and Ry Cooder.
Outside of their father's studio roots, the brothers cut their teeth playing with Mississippi blues icons like R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and Otha Turner before forming North Mississippi All Stars and leaving their own, modern stamp on Southern blues and roots rock with explosive live shows and a catalog that pushes the boundaries of jam rock with the brother's interpretation of Mississippi country blues.
Over the past few years, the brothers have been spread thin, splitting their time between the All Stars and a handful of other projects. The brothers have toured extensively with Robert Plant's Band of Joy and Cody Dickinson has contributed to several motion picture soundtracks and served as producer for artists like Lucero, Cisco Adler and Les Claypool. Luther, on the other hand has kept busy with his own projects, most recently five-piece folk band The Wandering, which also features Shannon McNally and Amy LaVere (who just appeared at The Vanguard a few weeks ago) and Sharde Thomas (Otha Turner's granddaughter).
The All Stars have never been retired, however, and the current winter tour brings the group back to Cain's in support of its latest studio album, 2011's Keys To The Kingdom, and last year's live release, Live in the Hills, Volume 2.
Although there's plenty be excited about with the All Stars, fans will want to make sure and arrive early as the group has tabbed rising act The London Souls to open this leg of the tour, bringing a fresh take of classic rock and soul to the table. Although the band officially consists of just two members: guitarist/singer Tash Neal and drummer/singer Chris St. Hilaire, don't be quick to write them off as merely another Black Keys rehash.
The band's debut disc, released in 2011, was recorded as a trio, but after the third member dropped out after recording, Neal and St. Hilaire soldiered on together.
The band's self-titled debut processed a healthy dose of soul and blues through duo's classic rock roots. The album shined when the Motown influences come out, but was a bit scattershot in other places.
The London Souls
Nevertheless, the band's electric live shows started drawing the group a healthy buzz and the group headed into the studio in early 2012 to record a follow-up.
Unfortunately, everything came to a halt when Neal was in a serious car accident following the band's time in the studio. After his New York cab was hit by a BMW drag racing down Broadway, Neal arrived at the hospital unresponsive and underwent brain surgery to treat a subdural hematoma. After several surgeries and an extended recovery time, Neal returned to The London Souls with a refined sense of purpose for an album that is more focused and already gaining rave reviews in advance of its release.
Together, Neal and St. Hilaire took the time to focus and change directions on the duo's forthcoming disc, Here Come The Girls. Lead single "City of Light" continues with a vintage, bluesy vibe, but delivers with more intensity, infusing thumping garage rock with Beatlesque harmonies and more pronounced Motown and Stax soul in the vocals.
When asked about the new album, Neal said, "Collectively, it's a lot different. Mainly we just approached it song by song and tried to make it the best we could."
"It's really built around the songs," he said. "There's some electric blues in there, the same as the other album, but our challenge was to make it the best we could. We took the approach of finding our groove and really just letting the songs speak for themselves."
Originally scheduled for a January release, Here Come the Girls has been pushed back by the label with an official release date to be announced. Instead of being frustrated with the delay, however, Neal is taking it all in stride and using last year's accident to put it all in perspective.
Of course, the current tour with North Mississippi All Stars is helping not only fill the gap until the album's release, but also expose the bands to new fans.
When asked how the response has been on this tour, Neal said, "The tour has been outstanding so far and the response has been awesome. People are coming to check us out and giving us a fair shake and liking it. Plus, I'm a big fan of North Mississippi All Stars, so it's been great to see them play every night."
Mostly, however, this is helping the band gear up for the new CD's release and hopefully win over some new fans in advance.
"I'm really excited because I think you can really feel the vibe with the new record, so we're excited for it to come out," Neal said.
Fans of North Mississippi All Stars know that Friday night's show will be a great evening of guitars and blues rock. If you're looking for an extra burst of energy and a fresh dose of rock with a classic vibe, make sure to arrive early and catch The London Souls. The show starts at 8pm and tickets are still available for $16.
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