DNA. If you're a scientist or even a fan of the CSI franchise, you understand that genetic coding holds all the historic information particular to the subject at hand.
A man's past is intricately wound through that code, revealing a century's influences in one cellular coil.
You can detect the Dickinson family's DNA in every lick, crack, and blast of both the North Mississippi Allstars and Hill Country Revue. That undeniable heritage made Saturday's sold-out show at the Theatre of the Living Arts by the two bands something to behold.
Sainted Memphis soul-maker Jim Dickinson (Big Star, Stones, Aretha) produces the dirty Southern-fried records his kids, Luther (guitarist, singer) and Cody (drummer), re-create as the Allstars.
Beyond toying with traditional American folk, the brothers, along with the third member of the trio, bassist Chris Chew, herd juke-joint swing, country blues, dusty funk, and hiccuping blues-punk into one sloppy corral. Then they get real loud.
Hill Country Revue, a side project formed by Cody and Chris, opened the program. But this wasn't your typical crowd-warmer/headliner arrangement. One set cascaded into the other.
Chew was the bedrock for both ensembles.
As an Allstar, the bassist kept to a low rumble and helped turn the sunburst blues epic "Moonshine" into a spacey rocket ride.
For the Revue, while Cody whipped out an electric washboard, Chew made his bass pop for something messily psychedelic and soulfully Allmans-esque on tunes like the chugging "Alice Mae." Luther joined the sextet as a second drummer.
North Mississippi Allstars at times suggested Cream, fronted by Hendrix rather than Clapton. Luther sang with a greasy, swaggering accent ("Soldier" became "soull-djuuh") and turned his guitar's slide runs from butterfly kisses to passionate busses. The rest of the trio daisy-chained their quick-change blues into mini-medleys filled with nuanced melodic fills.
Within their "I'm in Jail"/"No Mo"/"Mean Ol' Wind Died Down" suite, the ghosts of Bo Diddley and Charley Patton did the huckle-buck. A glint of Sun-era Presley blasted through "Eaglebird."
But whether covering the classics or running down the voodoo through its originals, NMA made an iconic roar. Credit Luther Dickinson for treating funky blues as a painter would, snapping cobalt and teal from his palette and applying new textures with a painter's knife.