The North Mississippi Allstars ‘link’ Hill Country masters to Rock ‘n Roll

CLARKSDALE – Claiming themselves “the link” between master musicians: R. L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Othar Turner, and Fred McDowell, the North Mississippi Allstars, predict “World Boogie is coming.”

On August 10 at Clarksdale’s 26th Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival ranked this year as a Top Event USA, music fans will decide if it has arrived.

USA Weekend also named the Sunflower one of the Top 10 Places in America to hear authentic music.

“It’s time to take blues into the future,” says Luther Dickinson, the articulate Hill Country guitar virtuoso on their NMA website.

Recording in the barn on their dad’s Zebra Ranch with Kenny Brown, third and fourth generations of Burnsides, and Othar’s granddaughter, Shardee, the Dickinson brothers exchange thoughts about the evolution of Mississippi Rock ‘n Roll.

“It’s been an amazing journey….a cornerstone for us…we’ve been able to identify our signature sound,” says Cody Dickinson – the group’s high-energy percussionist.

Describing its origin as tribal, the brothers say it transcends time and space.

Although rooted near Hernando, Coldwater, Como, Senatobia, and Gravel Springs, the fledgling All-stars captivated Delta fans years ago as youngsters performing at Hopson Commissary outside Clarksdale

In 2006 they headlined the Sunflower Festival, and their lofty ascent as celebrities skyrocketed.

Nominated for three Grammy awards for the Best Contemporary Blues Albums, they won a Blues Music Award, formerly called a Handy, as the Best New Artist Debut. They also have appeared on network television.

Preceding the Allstars Saturday night on the Melville Tillis Blues Stage, Southern soul singer Mel Waiters represents a 180-degree shift in tempo.

With a voice frequently compared to Johnnie Taylor and Marvin Gage, Waiters has recorded numerous albums. “Hole in the Wall” from his “Material Things” CD topped national charges.

Other talented performers in the Saturday lineup are James ”Super Chikan” Johnson, Bill “Howlin’ Madd” Perry, Terry “Big T” Williams with Rip Butler and Gladys, Heather Crosse: Heavy Sugar and the Sweet Tones, and Dave Dunavent.

Beneath the VIP tent, Saturday morning’s popular acoustic stage will kick off honoring the late Art niece “Gasman” Jones followed by Robert Belfour, Eddie Cusic, Pat Thomas, Richard “Dad Rich” Crisman, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, and Shared Thomas and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band.

“Remembering Melville and his River Mount Lounge” will continue in the VIP tent at 2 p.m. with musicians, friends, and family sharing memories of the late blues historian and longtime Sunflower co-chairman and his historic blues club where top celebrities performed.

Musicians and blues figures who were part of the Sunflower for many years and who passed away since the last festival will be honored with plaques. Included are Arthniece Jones, Mr. Johnnie Billington, Frank “Rat” Ratliff, and T-Model Ford.

Friday night’s stage will close with the high-octane finale of entertainer Bobby Rush with his amazing dancers.

Performing earlier Friday will be Joshua “Razor Blade” Stewart, the Otis “TCB” Taylor Blues Band, the All Night Long Blues Band, and the Delta Blues Museum Band.

Sunday’s Sunflower River Gospel Festival starts at 4 p.m. on the Melville Tillis Stage and closes around 10 p.m. with the Rev. Andrew Cheairs and The Songbirds, and the Stax Music Academy at 8:30 p.m.

Other groups include the Voices of Joy, Angelic Voices, The Sons of Wonder, ZAMAR, John Mark Howard, The Myles Family’s “Tribute to the Chapel Hill Men’s Chorus,” the W. A. Higgins Academy of Arts Choir, and Tiffany Mosely.

The Sunflower remains a free festival staged by volunteers. Funded by grants, corporate donations, and individual contributions, the Sunflower Blues Association is 501 c 3 non-profit organizations, and its funds directly pay musicians and production costs.

Among the primary $10,000 sponsors are HPI, LLP, the Mississippi Development Authority, Tourism Division, and the Coahoma County Tourism Commission.

Corporate sponsors ($5,000 +) include Coahoma Community College, the Mississippi Arts Commission, and Northwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center.

Major sponsors ($2,500 +) include Clarksdale Public Utilities and 305 Spin Webmasters, and Artist Sponsors ($1,000 + ) include the Delta Blues Museum, the Dutch Oven, the City of Clarksdale, First National Bank of Clarksdale, Regions Bank, Southern Bancorp, Southern Duplicating, Hyde Brothers- True Value Hardware, and Tots for Time.

A VIP tent next to the Melville Tillis Blues Stage offers sponsors air-cooled tables and chairs, unlimited beverages and invitations to Thursday night’s “Grits, Greens, and Barbecue” kick-off supper with entertainment by blues musician Lucious Spiller.

For more information about the VIP tent, contact chairman: John Sherman: 902-6969.

Check-in for media and musicians are located in Clarksdale Station (passenger depot) next to the Dutch Oven.

Luther Dickinson with Dwayne Burnside, son of R. L. Burnside, who frequently plays with them.