Mar 232005
Authors: JP Eichmiller

With the subtlety of a herd of stampeding elephants, the North Mississippi All Stars returned to the Aggie Theatre Saturday night. The performance was the finale in the band's recent annual spring visit to Colorado, capping a tour that also included stops in Vail, Telluride, Grand Junction as well as Park City, Utah.

"We love coming to Colorado," said lead guitarist and vocalist Luther Dickinson. "We have an awesome group of people who follow and support us every time we visit."

The support showed Saturday night as the band played to a near sold-out audience at the Aggie. Fans arrived from Boulder and Denver to catch the All Stars at their only Front Range performance this spring.

"Every year now we try to do a tour through the mountain towns," Dickinson said. "The people of this state are wonderful to us and have a real appreciation of live music."

The reasoning behind the hard-touring band's growing fan base was on full display as the band delivered an extendedly powerful performance that left everyone satisfied, with the possible exception of some Aggie Theatre employees.

The All Stars, a three-piece power trio comprising of brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson on guitar and drums, respectively, as well as Chris Chew on bass, hit the stage at 11 p.m. sharp to a packed Aggie. The band wasted little time in establishing the evening's tone, immediately displaying what 10 years of playing together can do. Luther Dickinson, showing off his unusual finger-strumming style on guitar, has clearly evolved into a powerful front man, displaying all of the instrumental and vocal styles required to front a strong power-trio.

Luther's brother, Cody, provided a non-stop force on drums, seemingly never stopping for a breather, much less a reprise in the music. Drums, however, are not the only instrument on which Cody can display his skills.

"I can play drums, guitar, piano and electric washboard, to name a few," Cody said. "I first learned the washboard messing around with a jug band. Eventually someone built me the electric version and it was born."

The extent and variety of the Dickinson brothers' talent should not be a surprise considering their family background. The siblings are the offspring of legendary Memphis music producer Jim Dickinson, who has worked with performers such as the Replacements, Charlie Mingus and the Spin Doctors. The music environment they grew up in provided the brothers with the basis and confidence to pursue a music career.

"We all met in high school," Chew said. "Eventually just jamming together became more serious and the band was formed."

Since then the All Stars have been doing everything but resting on their laurels. The band has released four successful albums since its inception in 1996 and is preparing to record its next album, to be entitled, "Electric Blue Watermelon."

"We have a bunch of new material we are saving for the next album," Luther said.

Along with getting ready for the recording studio, the band has stayed busy with its side project, The Word. The Word is comprised of the three All Stars as well as slide guitar king Robert Randolph and keyboardist John Medeski from the jazz trio Medeski, Martin and Wood. The Word is set to perform at the second stage of this year's Bonnaroo music festival in Manchester, Tenn.

If the performance Saturday at the Aggie Theatre is any indication, the All Stars are establishing themselves as a force in the live-music scene for years to come. The audience was blown back on its feet by the trio's shear power.

The sounds ranged from soulful blues to hard rock. Adding to the music were guest appearances by members of the Boulder-based trio Rose Hill Drive. The guests joined the All Stars on stage for the show's finale, which lasted well past 2 in the morning to the delight of fans and the angst of venue employees.

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