By Timothy Dwenger
Southern Soul Assembly isn’t a band, but it is a band of brothers — singer/songwriters, all accomplished musicians (to say the least) teaming up to showcase their own music with the help of like-minded artists. This union of Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), JJ Grey (Mofro), Anders Osborne, and Marc Broussard is bringing a songwriter’s tradition to life on stages across the country as they sit together sharing songs and telling stories for legions of rapt fans.
“The idea for this came from JJ’s camp,” said Dickinson during a recent interview with The Marquee from the City Winery in New York City where he was in the midst of a four-night stand opening for John Hiatt. “He and his team had the idea and of course, it’s the type of thing that everybody dreams about but it’s so hard to find the right group. The four of us have really great chemistry because everyone is different enough but similar enough. Between Anders playing guitar, me playing bass, mandolin or a foot stomper, we accompany each other and have become sort of a little string band. I’m not going to just sit there and not play. We help each other out.”
While this group helps each other flesh out sparse arrangements and build the intensity of particularly poignant verse on stage, according to Dickinson they’ve also been helping each other off stage as well. “JJ is at an amazing place in his life and is such a smart dude and is such a positive force and, of course, Anders — they all are. We’ve gotten into some real heavy conversations and I’ve thought about some things that are so timely — things I definitely needed to hear right then. The deepest part has been hanging out and talking about different aspects of life. We are all growing into the next phase of our careers so it’s good to have all these guys who have been through the exact same experiences but different variations of them; be that business or family or life or anything. It’s really healthy. A lot of times when you are touring you don’t get that kind of camaraderie, you don’t get to talk to someone who’s been through the same things you have.”
As anyone who has travelled for work, whether as a performer or otherwise, knows, the road can be a very lonely place even when you are surrounded by people, but it sounds like these four men have built a brotherhood that is based on mutual respect, shared values and, of course, a shared love of life and music.
While some of the relationships, like the one between Dickinson and Broussard are brand new, others go back years. “Marc and I had met on the circuit but we became friends on the last tour. For me he was my new-found friend,” Dickinson revealed, before going on to talk about his longstanding friendships with Grey and Osborne. “JJ and I go all the way back. We’ve been palling around the circuit since the late ’90s when we first started playing tours together. We’ve been friends for a long time. Anders I met four or five years ago and our destinies are definitely intertwined. Ever since we hooked up there have been more and more things that bring us together. We did a bunch of shows with Phil Lesh and he’s been kind enough to hire me a couple of times to play with his band which is so much fun.”
While those other projects are no doubt fun, there is something unique about getting to showcase your own music on stage as three of your peers showcase theirs. “Every once-in-a-while the guy before you will throw you a loop and you’re like ‘Whoa, how do I follow that! Damn, what am I gonna do now!’” Dickinson said. “You know, Anders might sing a tune that will make me want to sing a certain song of mine, or Marc Broussard might sing something that makes me just want to crawl under a rock. He is a force of nature, man — such a great talent.”
With such genuine respect flowing through this group it’s no wonder that the spring tour that saw the Southern South Assembly wind their way through the South and up the Eastern seaboard spawned a fall tour. While all four artists are so busy with other projects that there’s no telling if and when their schedules will align again, Dickinson said that there are hopes that this brotherhood and tour may not just be a one-off. “We dream about recording together and I hope that gets to happen,” he said. “We could make a really fun record together.”
| Southern Soul Assembly |
| Ogden Theatre | November 21 |
| Boulder Theater | November 22 |
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