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Sons of Mudboy a family affair

Sons of Mudboy
1884 Lounge
Memphis, Tennessee
May 29, 2013

Luther Dickinson stood at the front of the stage, drenched in sweat, microphone in one hand and the other cocked back to accentuate the lyrics he was delivering like the deftest of MCs. It was towards the end of yet another marathon Wednesday night set by the Sons of Mudboy, and Dickinson had the crowd in the palm of his hand. That’s what the residency has turned into; two months into their weekly gig at 1884 Lounge in Minglewood Hall, the band is ever-changing, but one thing remains the same: the friends, family, and neighbors that faithfully arrive each week know that anything and everything can happen.

_MG_8190-BDickinson is the de facto leader of the band whose line-up is always in flux. Depending on who’s available, on any given night the entire roster can and will change. As May came to a close, the group that kicked off the evening included the actual sons of Mudboy & the Neutrons: Luther and Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars, Black Crowes, etc.), son of Jim Dickinson; Ben Baker, son of Lee Baker, and Steve Selvidge (the Hold Steady, Big Ass Truck), son of Sid Selvidge. The band was joined by original Neutron Jimmy Crosthwait, drummer Robert Barnett (Big Ass Truck), Paul Taylor (the Merry Mobile and others), and George Sluppick (Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Mofro). Seemingly everyone on stage had a connection to one another, be it blood or musically.

It’s been a ride watching the band develop over the past two months. While they have played together for decades, to watch a band literally sprout on stage over the course of time has been a treat. The band can seemingly play anything and everything, and the first set started with the bluesy intro jam, which was followed with by the folksy, shuffling “John Henry > Judge Bouche.”

One of the intriguing features of the band is their versatility – the ability of nearly everyone on stage to swap instruments at any time. So, while Luther is by trade a guitar player – it has always been his instrument of choice be it with the Allstars or while he was with the Black Crowes – he started the show on bass but over the course of the show also played guitar and keyboards. Likewise, Taylor moved from guitar to drums to bass with little to no loss in play quality.

The addition of Sluppick for the night brought an added element to the line-up. One, he’s a damn fine drummer, Chris Robinson wouldn’t have tapped him for his band otherwise. Two it allowed allowed for Taylor to spend a little more time on bass and guitar.

This musical dexterity was on display during the finest moment of the first set, “Codine.” During this Buffy Sainte-Marie tune that Jim Dickinson had in his rotation, Luther laid down a steady bass line while Taylor unleashed a furious guitar solo. Jim Dickinson’s version of the tune had an edge to it, but the Sons’ version is spacey in an Allman-esque way. And, with two drummers on stage and dual guitars, it took on that tone exponentially.

_MG_8440-BThe second set opened with more players on stage. With the addition of local saxophone players Jim Spake and Art Edmaiston (Mofro) and bass player John Stubblefield (Lucero), there were 11 people crammed onto the tiny 1884 Lounge stage. The collective started with the soul of Wilson Picket’s “Land of 1000 Dances,”  segued into Jr. Walker’s “Shotgun,” and it eventually evolved into a gritty take on the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

The transition into the song seemed a tad disjointed as they went from one tempo into something completely different, but that’s kinda expected given there were nearly a dozen people on stage, some of whom had probably never played together. Accentuated by the haunting saxophones and reverb-drenched guitar from Selvidge, Luther delivered the lyrics with a growl. As the jam progressed the band settled into a nice pocket, and Luther broke out the slide to deliver one of his trademark solos. The band’s eventual transition back into “Shotgun” was a much smoother affair.

The band genre-jumped again to close the show, going from the Beastie Boys’ “Mark on the Bus” into a jam that touched on Sly & the Family Stone’s  “I Want to Take You Higher,” with Taylor laying down some downright funky bass lines.

As the show came to a close, it was evident that there’s true musical chemistry between the core members of the group. There are some connections that take years and years to nuture and some that are instantaneous, and each Wednesday, the Sons of Mudboy seem to display both.

Click on the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by Josh Mintz

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