On Sunday night the Southern Soul Assembly (consisting of Anders Osborne, JJ Grey, Luther Dickinson and Marc Broussard) made their first appearance at the intimate 300-seat Narrows Center for the Arts in New Bedford Massachusetts. The Narrows is a unique mission driven art and music space that books shows tailored for an older crowd of serious music enthusiasts. Because the Narrows allows concert goers to bring their own food and drink, every show has the feel of an indoor picnic or a festive house party. The Southern Soul Assembly kicked off at just after 8 p.m. with each member of the band taking a turn showcasing their particular songwriting and vocal talents for the first four songs. The mostly acoustic instrumentation included four guitars, a bass and a cardboard box for percussion.
The setlist ran from Anders Osborne’s “Cape Cod” and JJ Grey’s “A Woman,” two deeply emotional solo arrangements, to raucous hill country blues and stomps. Part of the charm of the Southern Soul Assembly is that each member of the band brings their own particular talent to the proceedings. Osborne on guitar is a Swiss army knife, nimble, with range and a delicate touch. Dickenson is a virtuoso on slide guitar, as well as a multi-instrumentalist. Grey is a raw nerve on vocals, deeply emotional without Broussard’s range, but gritty and transcendent on the slower ballads. Broussard was clearly the MC on this night and the glue that kept everything together, unifying four incredible talents with strong bluesy vocals. One of the funniest and most entertaining moments in the evening was when the group performed a brand new song that Broussard had started and earlier in the day asked his fellow songwriters to complete by adding their own verse. Watching the band members experience their partners’ songs of infidelity for the first time along with the audience was a treat and gave the audience a chance to see how each member of the band approached the assignment with their own singular talent. JJ Grey closed out the evening with a stirring and life affirming rendition “The Sun is Shining Down.”
Article and Photos by JD Cohen