Drive-By Truckers and North Mississippi Allstars

Concert Review- DBT and NMA- 930 Club, Washington, D.C. New Year’s Eve 2012

With the sound of Jack Bruce’s harp on ” Traintime ” in his ears, Nanker rides the rails to DC to usher in the New Year with some good sweet tea and Southern hospitality! — Ed.

Matt Patton, Patterson Hood, and Mike Cooley at the 930 Club, NYE 2012

Matt Patton, Patterson Hood, and Mike Cooley at the 930 Club, NYE 2012

“Neil Young always said that ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ was one of his favorite songs, and legend has it he was an honorary pall bearer at Ronnie’s funeral. Such is the Duality of the Southern Thing..” – Patterson Hood, ” Three Alabama Icons “

Quentin Tarantino was explaining to Teri Gross on ” Fresh Air ” about the seminal moment in “Django Unchained ” when the enlightened German dentist turned bounty hunter explains to the recently purchased and freed Django the dynamic they face in 1858 Mississippi as they kill off wanted train robbers now working as field bosses on plantations owned by slave traders: “They are selling living people. I’m selling corpses “. These contradictions played themselves out daily during the Civil War, with families split down the middle and kinfolk shooting at each other.

Southerners since then have had to stay “proud of the glory”, yet “stare down the shame “, as Patterson says, and embrace the duality of their heritage. These contradictions are  evident today in our capital, which is bordered on the North by a Union state, on the South by a Confederate state. Last week the fiscal cliff resolution was rejected by 80% of House Republicans from the Deep South and approved by 80% from the Northeast. Such is the duality of the Capital Thing.

As I climbed off the long escalator from the U Street METRO station, just north of Shaw and Howard Universities, my first sight on the street was the African-American Civil War Memorial. I’d like to think that Tarantino’s Django took his wife North, settled her in, then went back wearing the uni of the Army of the Potomac to give more ass whuppin’s to the slavers, like the brave men in the Memorial.  The Buffalo Soldiers lived the  duality of that era as armed  freed slaves riding back into the South, where many of the locals had never seen a black man on a horse.

The duality of the keyboard/guitar player Jay Fernandez

The duality of the keyboard/guitar player Jay Fernandez

Thankfully, my mission was merely to ride planes, trains and subways to the 930 Club, where two bands born and schooled in the Deep South were rocking the District with music that  reached back both to the Delta blues of antebellum Mississippi and the melting pot of George Wallace’s era in Muscle Shoals and Memphis. The delightful pairing was not coincidental.  The Dickinson boys have known Patterson since they were teens, and the bands go back to Hood and Cooley’s time as Adam’s House Cat. Both bands were in flux; the Allstars’ epic bassist Chris Chew has struggled with health issues and this show was a mere duo. The DBT have only done a few full band shows since the departure of bassist Shonna Tucker in November, 2011, and were apparently surprised by pedal steel whiz John Neff’s checkout a few weeks ago. No new member has been announced, although  Matt Patton from the Dexateens played these three shows, as well as several last year, and looks like a great choice to join the band. He had a huge shit-eatin’ grin the whole night, and knew the deep DBT catalog well enough to cover the audibilizing ( that’s right; they never use a set list, walking onstage with only the opening number agreed) Hood and Cooley as they called out the next tune.

Patton marvels as Patterson shreds!

Patton marvels as Patterson shreds!

The Dickinson boys stoking the fire

The Dickinson boys stoking the fire

The Dickinsons strolled onstage unnoticed and started before some even knew they were on, despite the presence of a sizeable fan contingent, some of whom professed not to know the DBT. The stripped-down duo lineup is a great presentation of the Hill Country blues legacy from R.L. Burnside, Kenny Brown, and Junior Kimbrough all the way back to Fred McDowell, with the sons of Mudboy bringing the elemental rhythms and universal lyrics to life for this generation of fans. Indeed, it’s a joy to see how powerful this true American roots music is for the college kids pogoing around geezers like me. Luther and Cody shifted tempos and tunes easily with glances, and the joy they share carrying out their Dad Jim’s prophecy that ” you’ll always be better together than apart ” was evident. DBT drummer Brad Morgan stepped in on his kit when Cody strapped on the washboard, and Luther was so engaged that he sat on Cody’s kit and banged a complementary beat, a la Jaimoe and Butch Trucks with the Allmans. I’d loved to have seen Cody grab a guitar and trade some licks with Luther, and of course, Big Chew was missed. But a great Duo show  ended like a stopped carousel when they’d ” hit their mark” as the Opening Act and politely slipped offstage to ringing applause. Like the gentlemen they were raised to be, the humble Dickinsons could be seen pitching in with the roadies and the 930 Club crew to clear their gear and set up for the DBT. Cody bantered laughingly with the fans down front as he coiled cords and packed gear.

" More washboard!", the ladies cried, and Cody obliged!

” More washboard!”, the ladies cried, and Cody obliged!

Soon, the mikes were lined up, the axes stacked, and Cooley and Hood were marching onstage to roars as they launched into Patterson’s ” The Buford Stick “, followed quickly by Cooley’s ” Uncle Frank “. Many fans knew every lyric, every punctuated beat sturdily pounded by Morgan. The set was tilted toward Southern Things, with many selections from ” Southern Rock Opera ” and the early CDs, including 2003’s finally soon-to-be released “Alabama Ass Whuppin’ “.  Patterson revealed that the missing master tapes had recently been located and delivered by Rob Malone, and the long-bootlegged album will be released “on vinyl for y’all to enjoy while we’re workin’ on the new one”, according to Hood. The entire NYE show is available on the DBT Facebook page, and the set list looks like this:

01. The Buford Stick
02. Uncle Frank
03. The Company I Keep
04. Gravity’s Gone
05. The Three Great Alabama Icons >
06. The Southern Thing
07. 72 (This Highway’s Mean)
08. Steve McQueen
09. Marry Me
10. Road Cases
11. Get Downtown > Happy New Year
12. Don’t Be In Love Around Me
13. 3 Dimes Down
14. Margo and Harold
15. Love Like This
16. A World of Hurt > A Ghost To Most
17. Heathens
18. Birthday Boy
19. Hell No, I Ain’t Happy
20. Encore call
21. Zip City
22. Let There Be Rock
23. Shut Up and Get on the Plane
24. Buttholeville
25. People Who Died

Hood, Patton, and Cooley

Morgan, Hood, Patton, and Cooley

As they neared midnight at the close of  ” Get Downtown “, Hood counted down 2012 to the release of hundreds of balloons from the ceiling as he hollered, ” Happy New Year, motherfuckers!”, and with a twist on ” World of Hurt”, ” It’s fuckin’ great to be alive!”  The band plowed through the rest of the set, bowed out to chanting ” DBT, DBT, DBT “, and returned for the encore with Cooley’s huge crowd favorite, ” Zip City “. Patterson called and waved the Dickinsons onstage for ” Let There Be Rock “, and I saw the wall clock read 1:15 am. The METRO stationmaster’s admonition shook me: ” You better be back here by 1:40 “. Streets jammed with drunken revelers, I raced back to the station, now crowded like Tokyo rush hour, and gave a crisp salute to the Civil War Memorial’s most Django-worthy statue as I ran down the escalator to avoid missing the last train out. A taste of the Southern Thing for the City of Duality. I wonder if Django coulda filled in on bass with the Allstars?

——Your humble Dixie correspondent, Col. Nanker Phledge

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