Amy LaVere & The North Mississippi All-Stars Storm Atlanta: Notes From A Soundcheck
Amy LaVere and the North Mississippi All-Stars played the Variety Playhouse last night to a very full and enthusiastic crowd. Amy recorded with The Allstars’ father Jim Dickinson and she has become another talented musician in the Memphis music scene. She’s out on the road, and these few shows represent her fine run with the All-Stars before Luther goes out on the road with The Black Crowes for the rest of the year. It's a fantastic musical pairing...the musicians all know one another from their hometown...
The Variety Playhouse is located in the Little Five Points district of Atlanta where all the bohemian folks live. It’s a very loose and interesting neighborhood. McDonalds was shooting a commercial in the middle of the street as all sorts of people strolled the avenue on the humid Friday evening.
I caught up with Amy when she arrived at the venue. I met her great drummer Paul Taylor and amazing guitarist Steve Selvidge, whose father serves as another interesting Memphis musician. I knew Steve’s father was old friends with my friend Stanley Booth. I mentioned Stanley was an old friend, and Steve said, “Yeah, my older brother was in Stanley’s karate class years and years ago.” In our interview I discovered Amy was a Cormac McCarthy fan so I brought her a gift. “Oh, wow. Thank you. I’m reading All The Pretty Horses now.”
“That’s his sweetest book. I wanted to bring you Suttree, but the bookstore didn’t have it, so I got you this one. It’s a masterpiece and it isn’t for the faint of heart.” I gave her a new copy of McCarthy’s mean book Blood Meridian. I helped her carry a couple of gear cases as they loaded into the venue. We talked a bit, and snapped a picture (my look of concern caused by matters of lighting) about 45 minutes before her set. She’s become one of my favorite female singers walking the planet right now. Check out her latest disc, Anchors & Anvils, and you’ll see why.
I saw Luther as we walked into the venue, and he was about to begin sound check when I presented him with a copy of the amazing Goodbye, Babylon box set, which brought a huge appreciative grin to his face. “Oh man, this is amazing. Damn, thanks so much.” We pulled out the contents for inspection and Luther beamed with joy. The Allstars sound checked “Keep The Devil Down" from their latest CD Hernando. Then Steve Selvidge came up to run through a surprise song…the Allman Brothers’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”. It’s very interesting to see Luther play those indelible notes, and working with Steve to see who plays what--only minutes before they open the venue doors to the public. There was a lot of talent standing on the stage...
Amy’s set proved amazing…another formidable trio. Luther came out and played on a couple of songs. Then the Allstars blew the roof off of the place. They rank as one of the finest touring bands in the country right now. They don’t mess around…those three guys bring the heat. I’ll write a review of these shows later, but it was great to hear the music in such close confines as the Variety Playhouse. I told Luther I was going to wander around a bit while he went on the bus to write the setlist. “Man, thanks again for the music,” he said. I told him, “If I don’t see you later tonight, listen out for me next week in Chattanooga.” “Yeah, give me a holler,” Luther said. We gave a soul brother handshake and I stepped out into the crowd before this great Memphis music nucleus transmitted a timeless music vibe on these Hotlanta pilgrims. It’s always nice to listen in the middle of some America’s finest musicians…