Hunter Mountain, NY
On Saturday, Mavis Staples summons the late risers out for a mountainside afternoon sermon. Backed by a crackerjack band, the soul matriarch shines through cuts from last year’s gem You Are Not Alone and nearly brings down the mountain as she herds the crowd through a rapturous rendition of “I’ll Take You There.”
Having made the festival rounds with The Word, the Hill Country Revue, and as John Hiatt’s backing band, the North Mississippi Allstars appears this year as a mere duo, shocking many but disappointing few. Brothers Luther and Cody show that while they might be a bit late to the guitar/drum blues duo party and lack a color-coded name, they still have plenty of new tricks for the old art. While the years have thinned the numbers of remaining Delta titans, the Dickinson brothers prove they’re more than ready to keep the fires burning, effortlessly weaving through a string of delta standards, from R.L. Burnside’s “Goin’ Down South” to Junior Kimbrough’s “Meet Me In The City.” Cody picks up a guitar for in impromptu jam (“porch-style” as Luther announces) and then marches to the front of the stage where he mocks the threatening clouds with a torrential washboard solo.
The night calls on Warren Haynes to put the day to bed, but he and Gov’t Mule have no intentions of playing any lullabies. Having played out all his new material the night before, Haynes gets behind the Mule and proceeds to unload a slew of fan favorites with a heavy reliance on some tasteful covers. They shake out “Thorazine Shuffle” early and “Banks Of The Deep End” and a parade of covers like the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” bridges the two sets together. Before the night is over, they turn back to their own classics with an epic turn through “Blind Man In The Dark” and “Working Class Hero.”