Singer-songwriters join forces to create Southern Soul Assembly

Unique tour heads to Manship Theatre

Marc Broussard, Anders Osborne, JJ Grey and Luther Dickinson — four Southern singer-songwriters — gather together in the all-star Southern Soul Assembly. Putting aside their other musical pursuits temporarily, Broussard, Osborne, Grey and Dickinson are touring together in a super songwriters-in-the-round show.

Broussard, who’s from Carencro, has released his southwest Louisiana soul music via the Atlantic and Vanguard labels. The many albums from Osborne, a native Sweden who’s based himself in New Orleans since 1990, include his 1995 Sony release, “Which Way to Here,” and four albums issued by Chicago’s Alligator Records since 2010.

The northeastern Florida-based Grey, Alligator Records’ best-selling artist, plays bluesy, swampy Southern rock. Memphis native Dickinson is a member of the North Mississippi All-Stars and the son of Jim Dickinson, the late producer-pianist whose credits include Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones.

The inaugural Southern Soul Assembly began March 18 in Chicago. It arrives in Baton Rouge Friday for a show in the Manship Theatre.

“It’s been amazing,” Broussard said a few days into the tour’s first week. “We all take turns playing songs. So after I play a song, I get to sit back for three songs in a row and just enjoy some wonderful music. It’s been a joy, man. It’s really one the best tours I’ve ever done.”

During that first week, Broussard, Osborne, Grey and Dickinson were still learning about what songs they wished to play.

“We throw different material in every night,” Broussard said. “We’re playing songs, singing background with each other. It’s coming together as naturally as we knew it would.”

Each member is free to participate in another member’s song if they wish.

“It’s an open invitation,” Broussard said. “There’s nobody saying, ‘Look, I’m going to play this quiet song. Don’t play on it.’ If you’ve got the ears and the skills, go ahead and started picking a guitar or singing along.”

Osborne, Grey and Dickinson, for instance, have sung background for Broussard when he sings “Lonely Night in Georgia.” And Osborne has played a guitar solo and Dickinson has contributed bass to Broussard’s “Home.”

“By the time we get to Louisiana we should be firing on all cylinders,” Broussard said. “And it’s a hell of a band. All we got to do is throw a drummer up there and we’ll be rocking and rolling.”

Grey’s manager, Jesse Aratow, got the idea for the Southern Soul Assembly. It’s a unique collaboration during which audiences get to hear four normally headlining acts in a single show.

“We all get to come away with some fans who may never have come to see us before,” Broussard said. “JJ’s got fans who have come out to see him but then they walk away with one of my CDs.”

A Southern Soul Assembly album is a likely possibility, Broussard said.

“We are talking about plans to get down in the studio in Louisiana, holding up for a week or two and making a record. We’ll see if it actually happens, but we’re all into the idea.”

Meanwhile, Broussard’s new solo album, “A Life Worth Living,” is set for release by Vanguard Records in July. He’s also planned solo tours in the U.S. and Europe.

“It’s a dark record,” he said. “I heard a song by an artist named Blake Mills that punched me in the gut with its honesty. There are a few dance tunes on the album but, for the most part, all of the stuff comes from the bottom of my soul.”