Folk, jazz, blues mix in Dickinson’s, Cashdollar’s joint performance

When the members of Luther Dickinson & The Wandering are onstage, you can tell they’re having a good time. When Cindy Cashdollar joins the mix, it becomes an upbeat, rhythmic party.

On Friday afternoon at ELLNORA, the musical group lit up Krannert Center for the Performing Arts’ Sonic Garden with a myriad of restructured southern roots tunes. In fact, the concert was moved outdoors from its original indoor location to take advantage of the sunny weather.

This year, Cashdollar is ELLNORA’s artist-in-residence. She is an acclaimed Grammy-winning guitarist who has recorded music with the likes of Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart and Van Morrison. She has performed at ELLNORA three times in the past. This weekend, she supplemented Luther Dickinson & the Wandering, whose frontman himself has appeared at ELLNORA two times. Luther Dickinson was ELLNORA’s artist-in-residence in 2011.

As early-arriving viewers sipped their drinks and others trickled inside the white tent, Dickinson strummed his guitar. In between songs, he talked about his father, the late Mississippi roots music legend Jim Dickinson. His musically inclined family would play “Mississippi front porch music jams,” which he and his band emulated Friday at Krannert.

“We’d sit on the front porch and drink moonshine and jive,” he said, inviting a few chuckles from the audience.

Dickinson’s fellow bandmate Sharde Thomas also has musical talent running through her family — her late grandfather Otha Turner was famous for his fife and drum music in Mississippi during the mid-1900s. For most of his life, he was a farmer, but once he began making and playing his own bamboo fifes, Turner became a full-fledged musician. During the show, Thomas showed her own drum and fife skills, maintaining the legacy of her grandfather.

The onstage musicians also included Wandering band members Amy LaVere, Shannon McNally and John Paul Keith. Their instruments ranged from a keyboard, drums, a fife, a double bass and of course, guitars. Cashdollar strummed a lap steel guitar throughout most of the 50-minute set.

Together they played nine songs, keeping the theme of jazz, folk and blues-rock while adding their own distinctive style. They transitioned smoothly from one genre to the next, with the members switching dominant vocals, guitar and other instruments.

Their variety meshed well, creating a unique alfresco-style concert. The song list included the Wandering’s “Wang Dang Doodle” and “Sentimental Blues,” as well as the group’s own rendition of “Glory, Glory.”

About halfway through the show, Cashdollar and Dickinson began a couple of friendly, yet very impressive, guitar duels. In the middle of two songs, the two began trading riffs back and forth to the delight of the audience.

Alongside the strings and rhythms of the other musicians, LaVere and McNally injected their harmonies into the more jazzy and blues-driven songs. Their voices complemented each other’s well with the laid-back quality of the folk-style melodies. With and without their string instruments, the two showed their effortless musical proficiency in Friday’s performance.

All in all, the group attracted an entire tent-full of people in the late afternoon sun. Many of the spectators were tapping their feet, bobbing their heads and clapping along to the music. As the musicians walked off stage after their final song, they received a standing ovation to complete the performance.

Reema is a junior in FAA. She can be reached at [email protected]