North Mississippi Allstars
Headlining our festival, we are pleased to introduce a band that probably needs no introduction around these parts: North Mississippi Allstars. A mainstay on the southern circuit and beyond for more than two decades, this marks their first return to Montgomery since 2001.
The core of North Mississippi Allstars (NMAS) are brothers Cody (drums, piano, synth bass, programming and vocals) and Luther (guitar and vocals) Dickinson; today they are joined by bassist Carl Dufresne. Founded in 1996, the venerable NMAS embody the longstanding blues tradition of multigenerational music craftsmanship, in their case having learned the magic from their father, the highly regarded Memphis-based musician and producer Jim Dickinson, and their community at large. "We have always identified with other second and third generation artists," says Cody and to be sure North Mississippi Allstars have long allied with the families of Hill Country icons like R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough via countless barbeques, tours, collaborations, and good old-fashioned parties. All of this is to say: this music wasn’t learned- it’s in their blood. Originating in the eponymously-named region in northern Mississippi, the Hill Country Blues sound is distinct from perhaps the more well-known product coming out of the neighboring Delta. Fueled by corn liquor and incubated in heat, it’s punctuated by a focus on percussion, relentless groove, and an underlining rhythmic trance delivered via humming electric guitar. Influential artists such as the electric guitar trendsetting ‘Mississippi’ Fred McDowell, the punchy and groovy R.L. Burnside, and the uber-hypnotic Kimbrough, all demonstrate the key ingredients of this foot-stomping blues sound through their own distinct styles.
It is true that NMAS is deeply steeped in American blues and roots tradition, but they have been increasingly exploring more modern electronic and programming influences, particularly on their last two records. As ever, their latest album, Prayer for Peace, sees the Allstars putting their indelible stamp on classic blues numbers and folk traditionals, including McDowell's classics "61 Highway" and "You Got To Move," while also further delving into some more modern takes such as the electronica they injected into R.L.’s “Long Haired Doney.” "I think it's our responsibility to the community that brought us up to protect the repertoire," Luther says. "To keep the repertoire alive and vibrant. That's what folk music is about. It's an oral history of America. My dad and his friends, they learned from Furry Lewis and Gus Cannon and Will Shade and then taught those songs to us. It's important for us to write songs and experiment and do other things, but playing our community's music in a modern way is what Cody and I do best. I think it's what we were meant to do." True as always to the blues tradition, North Mississippi Allstars use the basic structures taught to them as the starting point for improvisation and contemporary interpretation, jumping off points for exploration.
Looking at life beyond completion of Prayer for Peace, Luther says: "Now it's time to hit the road. Get to work and spread the word. We recorded this one in the spirit of our twentieth anniversary. Now we're looking towards our twenty-fifth. Twenty years is alright but twenty-five is monumental." Cody shared a similar forward-looking sentiment "This is a new beginning for North Mississippi Allstars. This revitalizing cascade of creativity and explosion of music, it's just been incredible. And I feel like we're just getting started. There's a long beautiful road ahead of us. We're only just now hitting our stride." This set will truly be a special treat, both to the casual blues/roots/Americana music lover; and to those of us who have been watching this dynamic act flourish the past couple of decades.
Band of heathens
The Band of Heathens, whose five members operate around the evolving territory where blues, folk, country, and rock combine to create a distinct and soulful musical gumbo. The term “Americana” was practically invented to describe The Band of Heathens’ approach, which has mutated almost as much as the genre to which they’re identified. Duende, the title of The Band of Heathens’ fifth studio album (and eighth overall), marks their tenth anniversary as a group, and it certainly applies to its overall theme about the collective search for connection and communion in a technology-fueled world increasingly splintered, distracted and lonely. As band co-founder Ed Jurdi, who first learned of the term, explains, “It’s the essence of the artist,” or as partner Gordy Quist says, “It’s a word we don’t have an equivalent for in English, Artistically, that’s where we tried to set the bar, to do what this band does best.”
and his lonestars
Dale Watson, keeper of the true country music flame, carries on in the tradition of many before him, yet his sound is all his own. The Alabama-born, Texas-raised Watson is one of the hardest working (and colorful!) entertainers today and is rapidly approaching legendary status. He is a member of the Austin Music Hall of Fame, a country music maverick, and a true outlaw who stands alongside Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and George Strait as one of the finest country singers and songwriters out of the Lone Star State. Dale and his ace touring band, “His Lone Stars” are on an exalted list of acts today consistently playing ‘real’ country both live and in the studio.
Unhappy with existing labels, he created the term “Ameripolitan” to distinguish his brand of American roots music from the more pop-oriented sound coming out of Nashville. This style combines a unique blend of western swing, honky-tonk, rockabilly and outlaw country into the sound that you hear today. Dubbed "the silver pompadoured, baritone beltin', Lone Star beer drinkin', honky-tonk hellraiser" by The Austin Chronicle, Watson has shined on the late-night circuit (Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman), performed on NPR, and logged numerous performances on Austin City Limits. A veteran touring artist and consummate entertainer, he is on the road more than 300 days a year and has released somewhere north of 30 albums (we lost count).
His musical journey began right out of high school as he started playing clubs and local honky-tonks around Texas. In 1988, it led him to move to Los Angeles. He played in the house band at the legendary Palomino Club in Hollywood for a couple years and recorded some singles before moving to Nashville to write songs for a publishing company. Commercial country did not fit the fiercely independent songwriter, so Dale relocated to Austin, Texas where he got a record deal and began to really find himself as a songwriter and performer. His life has taken more twists and turns than the Rio Grande since then, and he rumbles into the shed today - firing on all cylinders - ready to sweep everything in his path along a journey into the very essence of good-time country music.
Rollin' in the hay
We suspect that for many in our Montgomery crowd, this next band needs no introduction. For everyone else, if you want to get an understanding of Rollin’ in the Hay just think high-octane groove grass with a touch of down home foot stompin’ or just simply –Renegade Bluegrass. Long considered to be one of the forerunners of the “Newgrass” revolution in America, these savvy veterans have been thrilling fans coast to coast for years! Opening for everyone from Greg Allman, Moe, Charlie Daniels, The Doobie Brothers, Jerry Douglas, Alabama, (this list could get LONG) to Widespread Panic, the unique sound of the Hay keeps fans coming back for more. Rollin’ in the Hay has six self-released CDs but also has done 15 nationally released instrumental tributes called the “Pickin’ On” series. With the approval of the band, there are tons of live “bootleg” shows on the internet. Being listed in the Alabama Music Hall 0f Fame as “Music Achievers” is one of this bands’ proudest accomplishments. We are really pleased to have Hay join us today in the shed!
- Nashville, Tennessee
Originally from Birmingham, Banditos is a group – more like a gang, actually, nowadays operating out of Nashville, close to, and simultaneously very far away from, the gleaming towers and industry hustle of Lower Broad and Music Row. With the rugged power of a locomotive, the Banditos’s self-titled debut album bodaciously appropriates elements of ’60s blues-fused acid rock, ZZ Top’s jangly boogie, garage punk scuzz a la Burger Records, the Drive-By Truckers’ yawp, the populist choogle of CCR, Slim Harpo’s hip shake baby groove, gut bucket Fat Possum hill country mojo and the Georgia Satellites. The bands second album, “Visonland,” picked up where the first one left off, building on an incredible diversity in styles and sounds. Depending on the song or the kind of day you’re having, you may hear elements reminiscent of Rolling Stones, the ebullient folk of electric Dylan, vintage ‘60s Etta James soul, hopping country blues, or all of the above. Topics and styles range this way on Visionland - the heavy and emotional to the light and simplistic. From backwoods bluegrass, to slinky nods to Muscle Shoals soul and unexpected bits of doo-wop sweetness, the Banditos recall many, but sound like no one but themselves. When we were thinking of what “Americana” means to us, we thought of Banditos, which is to say, we have a little bit of everything here. Now, enough with the labels- turn that stuff up!
Originally hailing from Montgomery, Stewart now calls Birmingham home. He'd been away from Alabama for a few years, living in Nashville while earning his stripes as a songwriter, frontman, and lead guitarist. He gained valuable perspective while away, but still, something kept drawing him down South. He'd grown up here, surrounded by the twang of classic country music and the stomp of rootsy rock & roll. Alabama was a complicated place, its history filled with dark characters and cultural clashes, but it was oddly compelling, too. It was home. Unable to resist the pull, Stewart returned to Birmingham. There, after a decade away, he rediscovered his muse: the Modern South, whose characters, complexities, open spaces, and strange beauty are all channeled into Stewart's full-length solo debut, County Seat, a guitar-fueled Americana record, caught somewhere between the worlds of country and electrified rock.
Stewart adds his own perspective to eternal themes of Life, whether it be the musings of a lonely man in his twilight years, the longing for the wonder and innocence of young boundless adulthood, or the realization and acceptance of one’s nebulous existence while confronting and coping with one’s own vices. Sure, there is a passionate yearning in his music, as he explores the mysteries and murkiness of the 21st century South, but an undercurrent of hope is always flowing beneath the surface, punctuated by familiar electrified crescendos and timeless pedal steel guitar righteousness. When Stewart is on stage you’ll perhaps feel the presence of an old friend who’s been away for a while…perhaps there’s something different in the air you can’t explain, but the feeling just feels like…home.
Relative new contributors to Central Alabama’s rich music scene, Fire Mountain is a four-piece, rock band out of Troy. They released their most recent album, “All Dies Down,” in 2014, garnering critical acclaim. Fire Mountain’s music has been praised by American Songwriter, The Bitter Southerner, Paste Magazine and many other music publications worldwide. These guys offer a distinct sound that could be described as some sort of blend of southern-alt-country-Americana-indie rock- easy for us to say! Fire Mountain have performed in-studio for Sirius/XM radio, and their music was recently used in programming on the ABC Network. Fire Mountain is currently at work on their second album. Be sure to check out our official event art, which was created by Fire Mountain’s own Perry Brown, truly a modern-day Renaissance man!
Big A & the Allstars
Hailing from the heart of the Mississippi Delta, many consider early 30-something Anthony “Big A” Sherrod to be the future of the “Clarksdale sound.” Big A picked up his first guitar at the age of 6 and hasn’t put it down since. Learning to play from local blues player, instructor, and mentor Johnnie Billington, Big A continues to act as an ambassador to the next generation of Delta blues musicians. Not unlike the confluence of the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers, his style incorporates many of the influences that collectively bubbled out of this great hotbed of American music. When Big A isn’t playing at the world renowned Red’s Lounge in Clarksdale, he can be found dazzling crowds at blues festivals throughout the country. Playing for you today as an electric blues trio, please welcome Big A & the Allstars.
Family reunion trio
Representing Montgomery’s own rich blues heritage we have The Family Reunion Trio, featuring William Barnes, Dave P. Moore, & John Mark Turner. Barnes has been a staple on the Montgomery blues seen since the 1990's. Our audience will perhaps best know Moore and Turner from their collaborations together over the years within Blues Old Stand, a band which has obtained near mythical status dating back to its roots over 30 years ago. Together as a trio, we couldn’t be more excited to have these musicians serving up a set of gritty home-style blues