Marc Broussard, Luther Dickinson, JJ Grey and Anders Osborne each front raucous rock ‘n’ roll bands, but when the four musicians tour as Soul Assembly, their American Southern roots take center stage. The tour debuted in 2014 and returned in 2017 for a rare month-long trek that wraps Sunday (March 26) in Indianapolis.
“JJ’s team came up with the idea,” Dickinson told CMT.com over a call from the road. “And it’s a dream team. Each one of us were so excited to do something like this. It shows another side to what we do.”
As the son of Louisiana Music Hall of Famer Ted Broussard, Broussard’s music is steeped in the Louisiana music tradition. Dickinson is life-long student of Mississippi hill country blues and the son of the late Memphis producer and musician Jim Dickinson.
All of Grey’s blues, funk and soul reflects the East Coast Florida region that raised him, while Osborne’s music walks the line between confessional and his observations about living in New Orleans.
Every Soul Assembly performance is set up as a stripped down acoustic guitar pull, offering the intimacy of a front porch jam and the spirit of a delta tent revival. No set is the same, and they back each other on vocals and guitar in an exchange of musical expression that can’t be replicated.
At Soul Assembly’s Nashville show earlier this month, Broussard made the room bounce when he lit into a blues shuffle about his son, and then Osborne made it go still with “Peace,” a song about watching miracles come to life while still searching for spiritual solace.
Then Dickinson would lay into a funky blues about playing guitar better than mowing the lawn. Fans in hushed voices sang along to Grey’s “This River,” a powerful soul anthem about finding a sense of purpose.
It’s true musical fellowship live – except their music is greasier than most.
“Every night is different, and we can’t predict it,” Dickinson added. “It’s like an adventure. Even if we have an idea of what we want to play, sometimes the other singers will sing something that completely changes the mood. You can have an idea or a frame work, but it’s really a fluid thing.”
Dickinson and his brother Cody Dickinson celebrate 20 years with their band, the North Mississippi Allstars. Co-produced with Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, the band’s next album Prayer For Peace (available June 2) is a half hill country blues repertoire and half new originals. All of the material was recorded live in different studios on tour in St. Louis, Kansas City, New Orleans, Brooklyn, Austin and at home at the family’s Zebra Ranch studio in Mississippi.
“It’s a wild rock ‘n’ roll record,” Dickinson says of the new Allstars music. “It’s kind of hard to capture the live spirit of a band like that, but this record comes close. That song is a really unique number — funny mixture of dance music, hill country, blues. I wrote it last year pre-elections, but it has been pretty violent for the last two years. That song is about two steps forward, one step back, in a social sense. I’m not overtly political, but what I always say is the music is the prayer for peace. That’s my intention.”