Luther Dickinson turns the Brighton Music Hall into home
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
I walked into Brighton Music Hall around 7:30, about half an hour before the music started.
I walked over to the bar, ordered a beer, went back to the merchandise table, then back to a TV to catch a little of the Bruins-Capitals game, then wandered over to a spot at the end of a row where chairs had been set up on the dance floor.
In all that time, I don’t remember seeing a roadie. So when it came time for his set, Luther Dickinson walked out on stage, hopped down to the floor, grabbed an empty folding chair, brought it back on stage and set it up dead center.
From there, he sat down, gave his guitars a quick tune-up and started spinning stories and playing tunes, as natural and casual as if he was in his own living room.
As he does on his new album, Blues & Ballads, Dickinson took a trip through his catalog and by turn his roots, playing songs that sound as worn-in as any blues standard. He did it all with a tossed-off flair, switching from acoustic to electric guitars and, on “Shake,” a two-string hambone (with a coffee can as a resonator) that ran from the blues to a few classic rock riffs tossed in for a chuckle.
His backing band for this tour, the Cooperators — Sharde Thomas on drums and fife along with openers Amy LaVere on standup- bass and Will Sexton on guitar — were more than flexible, switching instruments and occasionally even physically unplugging to match Dickinson’s back porch simulations. Thomas was his primary foil, adding on-spot vocals to compliment Dickinson’s tenor, but everyone seemed game to laugh off the random changes to the setlist and the swapping of instruments.
It all fit in with the stories, of moonshine and backyard blues romps and Otha Turner and his father, producer and musician Jim Dickinson. On a 30-degree night in Boston and against the clock before the club turned over for a dance night, for a couple of hours Dickinson turned the room into a small piece of Mississippi. And it was about more than just good times and the comforts of home.
“I thinking, ‘why do I keep talking about my father every time I’m on stage,’ like is that a normal thing to do?” he said between songs. “But I was like, ‘because he’s with me when I’m on stage, playing music.’”
He had some good stories, too, like smoking on a roof in sight of the White House in Washington, D.C., or drinking moonshine back home out of a cleaned-out Clorox bottle. Never was there anything sinister about any of the tales of backyard blues bashes or bad behavior. Just as with the music and the songs that are filling up a still-expanding songbook, it was just growing up. It’s where the songs came from.
And how he did it was so natural. He just pulled up a chair, picked up a guitar and started spilling the songs and stories that have shaped his entire musical life.
Email Nick Tavares at firstname.lastname@example.org