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The Scene – Jeffrey Martin

Sitting down to write this inaugural column, District residents are to live in a city awash in live music Concert-goers have so many options. Gussied up in a gown or suit, head to the vaulted environs of the Kennedy Center to listen dulcet tones of an aria or the majestic symphonic notes of the National Symphony Orchestra. Alternatively, grab some flannel, and metro to the 9:30 Club, the city’s Church of Rock & Roll, for head-banging moshing or fast-grass clogging.

“So many venues, so many bands, so little time,” a friend once opined.

Join this columnist, Dear Readers, on in his personal journey to immerse himself in the beauty of live performance in our fair metropolis.

Heard

Last Friday, your intrepid columnist caught singer-song writer Jeffrey Martin’s performance at the Pie Shop on H Street NE. Hailing from Oregon, A former high school English teacher turned musician in 2009, his corpus includes four solid albums.

Martin possesses a deep, baritone. His songs capture the complexities of love, loss and nostalgia. His lyrics are Dylanesque while the contours of his voice reminds one of an aging Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits.

The show took place on the Pie Shop’s first floor. This tiny, intimate space really allows one to make a personal connection with a performer. It was the perfect location to catch Martin’s performance. Bantering with audience members, he narrated his journey from teaching to songwriting. He drew up his setlist on the fly incorporating suggestions from admirers, who clearly knew his work.

In “Billy Burroughs,” Marin explores the ramifications of a tragic decision made a haze of drugs and alcohol. The song narrates writer William Burroughs drunken murder of his lover, who he shot in the head during a game of Russian roulette.

Martin was touring in support of his new album, “Thank God We Left The Garden.” At the Pie Shop, he performed “Sculptor,” perhaps the best song off that work.

But you wrote a letter like a sculpture
And I cried and let the day go
I miss your breath on my shoulder
I miss your breath on my shoulder

Listening to this nostalgic dirge to lost love sent chills down this writer’s spine.

In Coming

Next week The North Mississippi Allstars roll into town. Lead by brothers Luther and Cody Dickenson, this band gives the country roadhouse blues a new spin. Learning his craft at the knee of the bluesman R.L. Burnside, Luther still performs many of his tunes.

I have heard some great bluesmen. I heard B.B. King make his guitar Lucille wail and sing many times. Muddy Waters defiant declaration in “Mannish Boy” still sends shivers down my spine. I caught him performing with Johnny Winter years ago. Bobby Blue Bland’s rendition of “3 O’clock in the Morning,” remains in regular rotation on the turntable.

The Dickinson brothers remain close with R.L.’s sons. Cedric and Gary. Cedric taught Luther how to tour, when he first went out on the road with R.L.’s family band. And Luther has returned the favor, producing his “Hill Country” album. Cedric refers to Luther as his “brother from another mother.”

The Dickinsons hail from a storied musical family. Their father James Luther Dickinson was a famous Memphis producer, best known for his work with The Replacements, and talented roadhouse player in his own right.

The Dickinsons are also closely connected the Turner family. Father Otha Turner was one of the last masters of the Mississippi fife and drum tradition. His granddaughter Sharde Thomas often makes an appearance on their albums.

Luther Dickinson, in the humble opinion of this columnist, is perhaps the best contemporary blues guitarist. Years ago, I heard him at the Hamilton play an hour of solo acoustic blues. Later, I witnessed him follow clarinetist Allison Russelle, note by note as her fingers flew over the keys. Simply mesmerizing.

Brother Cody Dickinson is no slouch either. His ferocious drumming powers the band. Just give their signature “Shake ‘Em on Down” a listen. Turn it up to shake the walls.

Recently, the band has been strengthened by the addition of Lamar Williams, Jr. Williams is the son of the Allman Brothers original bassist, Lamar Williams. His powerful voice complements the brothers’ talents perfectly, soaring over Luther’s guitar and booging to Cody’s drumming.

The North Mississippi Allstars perform at Rams Head on Stage on April 17 and the following night at The Barns of Wolf Trap.

A Look Ahead

The dominoes continue to fall as the fall music schedule shapes up. St. Vincent is booked at The Anthem of Sept. 13. The Toxic Airborne Event is touring behind their new album “Glory.” Tickets to their DC show at the 9:30 Club go on sale this Friday. Don’t miss the Dresden Dolls at the same venue this June. The first show sold out and a second has been added. Lastly, The Drive-By Truckers, this columnist favorite band, are reprising their seminal “South Rock Opera” at the Warner in October. Lasty, make sure to checkout the 2023-24 season of the National Symphony Orchestra led by maestro Gianandrea Noseda.

Andrew Lightman is an avid live music fan and audiophile. He can be found at andew@hillrag.com.

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