Kicking off Mardi Gras season with my sister Kate

As I’ve mentioned before on my radio show, I wouldn’t be doing a program on New Orleans program if my sister hadn’t helped me reconnect with my birthplace over a dozen years ago. So it was fun to finally do a show with her in the radio studio. Get it started before reading on.

Me and my sister Kate in our home in New Orleans as kids. My ears were big for their age.

My big sister Katie was the one who taught me to take the bus from our house on Nashville Avenue in Uptown New Orleans down Freret Street to our school on Napoleon. We referred to the ride as the “Freret Jet.” Our family moved away from New Orleans before we could finish school but our hearts stayed there.

Later as adults, when Kate moved back to New Orleans, I visited her and reconnected with the music of New Orleans. So it was really cool to have her hang out with me in the KAOS studio for this show as we celebrated the start of the 2019 Mardi Gras season with songs like The Hawkettte’s “Mardi Gras Mambo” and the New Orleans Suspects “Carnivale.”

Morgus in his laboratory

In the 1960’s, Kate and I and our older brothers would huddle around our teeny black & white television set and watch the Saturday night late movie on WWL TV — not for the movie but to watch the antics of the nutty guy who introduced the show “Morgus the Magnificent.” Last week marked the 60th anniversary of the debut of this New Orleans cultural icon. You can read my earlier blog post that gets deeper into his story. For today, we listened to Dr. John’s “Morgus the Magnificent” and Galactic’s “Friends of Science” in honor of the occasion.

New Orleans songwriter Andrew Duhon called in for a brief interview to promote his Olympia performance this week. Duhon has three albums under his belt and we played two songs from his latest. It was quite a delight to hear him talk about how the Freret Street Fair had inspired his song “Street Fair.” I also played his nostalgic song “They Don’t Make ’em.” His interview starts about an hour in and lasts about 10 minutes.

Because the New Orleans Saints are headed into the playoffs with a big game with the Philadelphia Eagles, you’ll hear a set of Black and Gold spirit by the Brassaholics and other Saints related songs by Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes and the Pinstripe Brass Band.

You’ll also hear Chuck Carbo and Eddie Bo (off a vinyl record) and other surprises as well. Thanks for tuning in.

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New Orleans songs set up the new year – 2019

Nothing like putting up a new calendar to feel the passage of time. Was 2018 a good year? What about 2019? Welcome to my musical reflection of this new year (first show of 2019) with amazing music from New Orleans. You can play it now while you finish reading

No matter how good my life is, it all seems hollow with our growing unhoused population, a gridlock country and a world that requires solutions built from collaboration rather than conflict. These thoughts guided my selections of songs.

Earl King kicks off the show with his “Make a Better World” followed by Lee Dorsey singing “Why Wait Until Tomorrow.” Later, Colin Lake performs his original song “The World Alive” followed by Tom Hambone’s “Faith” from his NOLA Sessions’ recording

The Radiators exhort us to “Never Let Your Fire Go Out” aided by The Neville Brothers “Wake Up” and Galactic’s “Action Speaks Louder than Words.”

“Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further” written and sung by Allen Toussaint with help from Elvis Costello seemed to fit right in at this point, along with “Street Symphony” by the Subdudes and an encore by Toussaint with “We’re All Connected.”

Carlo Ditto and Louie Ludwig songs take on complacency when it comes to war and Irma Thomas and James Booker close it off with “River is Waiting” and “Amen” respectively.

In between the above are appropriate songs by Dr. John, Helen Gillet, Paul Sanchez, the Iguanas, John Mooney, Mem Shannon, Marcia Ball and Ever More Nest.

I wish you a happy and fulfilling year. Stay engaged!

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Gumbo YaYa 2018 – Top 10 CDs of the Year

My list of top ten releases from New Orleans is based on my experience as the host of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa, a Northwest community radio show that features New Orleans and other Louisiana music. To see a larger list of releases, check out my 2018 summary. This show features two tracks from each of the top 10 releases.

Bon Bon VivantLive At The New Orleans Jazz Museum –  This original group features sweet sister harmonies, a genre-bending style and a clear affection for New Orleans history performed before the perfect live audience.  This is a group to watch and you can, very easily because they perform live in New Orleans regularly.

Riverside Jazz Collective: Stomp Off, Let’s Go – Recorded at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music by New Orleans pros who can  be heard regularly around town, particularly at The Bombay Club. This album features gently time-worn “songs that are melodically and emotionally durable.”  

Ivan Neville and Cris JacobsNeville Jacobs – A magic combination formed from a post-Jazz Fest card game where New Orleans funk and soul meets Baltimore rock and blues.  The chemistry is so solid, I listen to this CD with the hope that there will be a second one.

Cha WaSpyboy – Waiting for the next generation to pick up the mantle for The Wild Magnolias (except with a strong brass sound ) Look no further then this second release of this millennial group that has the fire!  Grammy nominated too.  “Get On Out Of the Way” 

Michot’s Melody Makers: Blood Moon – Lost Bayou Ramblers’ co-founder Louis Michot stretches the boundaries of Cajun music to his heart and my ears content with this project. I get calls from listeners wanting to know more when I play from this CD — and for good reason.

Helen GilletHelkiase– On the surface, Gillet and her music may seem far afield of what you might expect out of New Orleans. But this French and English singing cellist has been embedded in the city for most of her professional life. Her latest project can be edgy, melodic, soothing and tense.  Check out her KAOS studio performance  and interview from this summer

Jon Batiste:  Hollywood Africans – He may be world famous as the late night show bandleader but Batiste is more importantly a world-class musician with some powerful music to share, In this very personal release, he offers up originals with a fresh look at a couple standards. His reverent timing invites the listener to slow down and listen “with all you got, . . .don’t stop.”

Gal HolidayLost & Found – After 14 years in the vanguard of the New Orleans country music scene, Gal Holiday — aka Vanessa Neuman — and her Honky-Tonk Revue know how to deliver authentic old-time Patsy Cline style country. And while her band is solid, Vanessa’s voice is the star of the show.

Jonathon LongJonathon Long –  His third release is the charm. He dropped the “Boogie” from his name and added a lot of himself in his singing and songwriting. This self-titled album produced by Samantha Fish and featuring muscular guitar work and soulful, personal lyrics represents a new addition to Southern Rock.

Jon ClearyDyna-Mite – If you’ve been waiting for Cleary’s full band follow up to his 2016 Grammy win, wait no more!  With two more songs and a wider range (including a reggae-inflected song), Dyna-Mite blows away his Grammy-worthy earlier release.

I also play a track from Ever More Nest — Kelcy Mae’s latest project which was a close contender for being part of the top 10 list.

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Christmas Time from New Orleans

How can there be a war on Christmas when anyone who wants to enjoy this popular event is able to? Not only is this holiday community property, its a wonderful way to examine our culture. In this show, you get a look at Christmas through the lens of New Orleans music (with some help from cajun and zydeco musicians_

Allen Toussaint

What better way start the Gumbo Ya Ya show than with Art Neville’s “Gumbo Christmas”. Snow is pretty rare in New Orleans and a “white” Christmas is almost unfathomable so I start the next set with Allen Toussaint’s delightful “The Day It Snows on Christmas.”

The set ends with Louis Armstrong’s version of “Christmas Night in Harlem” which was a bigger hit than the original 1934 recording by Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra. As sung by Jack Teagarden and Johnny Mercer in the Whiteman version, the song has minstrel elements that seem to play off the same attraction held by the popular radio show of the time, Amos N’ Andy. Armstrong wised removed those elements, streamlined the song, focused on the swinging parts and made the song a bigger hit.

You get a soulful, blues reading of the “Night Before Christmas” by the man who either inspired the name of the Little Richard hit or got his nickname from it: Ready Teddy McQuisten. And if you’re not familiar with the song “Ready Teddy,” don’t worry. I play it right after the reading.

Kelcy Mae’s original and poignant song about separating from her partner during the holidays as they each head to their respective families plays off a pun of “Merry Me” as it recognizes and honors the achievement of legalizing same sex marriages. Here’s her video of that song.

Wayne Toups sings “Louisiana Santa” and Smoky Greenwell drives home a very cool version of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” For those who love horns, New Birth Brass Band belts out “Second Line Santa”

Shamarr Allen sings his original “Santa Passed My House By” with the assistance of what like is his own child. There’s more to this show so please enjoy. Consider subscribing, it’s free. If you celebrate this holiday, Merry Christmas. Otherwise, enjoy the season and some time off with your loved ones.

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Your 2018 New Orleans Music Buying Guide

Here’s a list of 2018 releases from New Orleans musicians for you to consider and you can listen to them with my latest show. No rational order to the list other than this is the order you’ll hear them on the show, which you can start right now. The song played is in italics.

The Big Dixie Swingers: Ranch Stressing – A fiddler and crooning banjoist backed up by trumpet, clarinet and drums perform a collection of pre-war Western Swing, Country Blues, and popular songs.  Razz Matazz Soup

Big Sam’s Funky Nation: Songs in the Key of Funk: Volume One – Trombonist Big Sam Williams brings back the funk for his latest release with his actively touring band.  Dance to the CD then dance to him when he comes through your area. “Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further”

Sean ArdoinKreole Rock and Soul Ardoin’s grammy nominated release of  soul, rock and pop songs, all with a distinctive creole flavor, is designed to get you to dance — instructional dance video included. “Kick Rocks”

Marcia Ball: Shine Bright  – Her dual Texas and Louisiana musicianship status is on full display in support of a seasoned voice that leaves no doubt of the veracity of her songs. “I Got to Find Somebody”

Jonathon Long: Jonathon Long –  In his third release, this Baton Rouge-based guitarist and singer has seen “the light” and put more emphasis on his songwriting and singing.  A damn good idea well executed  by producer Samantha Fish. “The Light”

Ever More Nest: The Place That You Call Home  –  Kelcy Mae’s latest project offers a deeply intimate perspective on the saying “there’s no place like home.” This Shreveport native lives and works in New Orleans and recorded this beautiful album in Nashville for a national audience. “Broken Bones”

Tin Men:  Sing with Me – Washboard Chaz anchors and lends his voice to this unique trio which showcases the fascinating songs of Alex McMurray (guitar and vocals) and the sousaphone wizardry of Matt Perrine.  “Scraper Man”

Riverside Jazz Collective: Stomp Off, Let’s Go – Recorded at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music by New Orleans pros who can  be heard regularly around town, particularly at The Bombay Club, this album features gently time-worn “songs that are melodically and emotionally durable.”  “Ready for the River”

Sabertooth Swing: Extinct Possibilities – Another sharp traditional New Orleans jazz band that manages to make it all sound fresh and fun. “Alcohol”

Bon Bon Vivant: Live At The New Orleans Jazz Museum – Enjoyable sister harmonies, genre-bending style and a clear affection for New Orleans history performed before the perfect live audience. “The Jazz Axe Man”

Jon Cleary: Dyna-Mite – If you’ve been waiting for Cleary’s full band follow up to his 2016 Grammy win, wait no more!  – “Dyna-Mite”

Ivan Neville and Cris Jacobs: Neville Jacobs – New Orleans funk and soul meets Baltimore rock and blues.  I hope its not a one off. “Make Up of a Fool”

Gal Holiday: Lost & Found – Vanessa Neuman, aka Gal Holiday, lays down a tasty selection of mostly original honky tonk country tunes. “Come Home”

Ghalia & Mama’s Boys: Let the Demons Out  – Energetic vocals of Belgium-born Ghalia Vauthier, who has been mining the Mississippi River blues scene for this release — well supported by Johnny Mastro & Mama’s Boys.  “Hoodo Evil Man”

Little Freddie King: Fried Rice & Chicken – Straight, no chaser blues by a man who is still a treasured member of the Ninth Ward live music scene. “Mean Little Woman”

Old Riley & Water:  Biting Through –  Gritty, fuzzy, stripped down blues from a group I hadn’t heard of till the album turned up at KAOS — they regularly perform at House of Blues in New Orleans.  “Trouble”

Keith Stone with Red Gravy: Blues with a Taste of New Orleans – Keith Stone has clearly made it back home with this solid cast of musicians delivering exactly what the album title promises, with an extra serving of red gravy. “Blue Eyed Angel”

Eric Lindell: Revolution in Your Heart – Another great release of southern R&B. This time, Lindell plays just about every instrument. “Grandpa Jim”

Ted Hefko and the Thousandaires: Gas Station Guru – Saxophonist/bandleader Hefko takes you through a laid back set of R&B, blues and jazz that is steeped in New Orleans. “The Roofer”

Shawn Williams:   Motel Livin’ – Falling somewhere near the alt-country zone, her second album is a gripping compendium of lyrical songs that may leave you a bit unnerved but fully entertained. “Best of Me”

Helen Gillet: Helkiase– A French and English singing cellist with a strong attraction to improvisation, jazz, funk and New Orleans, Gillet’s latest project can be edgy, melodic, soothing and tense.  Check out her KAOS studio performance  and interview from this summer. “Vautour”

Cyril Neville: Endangered Species: The Essential Recordings:If you’re not a close follower of the most soulful and political of the Neville brothers, then this release serves as a nice sampler of his five releases from his Endangered Species label. “Ayiti”

Cha Wa: Spyboy – Waiting for the next generation to pick up the mantle for The Wild Magnolias (but perhaps with more brass!) Look no further then this second release of this millennial group that has the fire!  Grammy nominated too.  “Get On Out Of the Way” 

Michot’s Melody Makers: Blood Moon – Cajun music for new ears, and broad-minded old ones, crafted with respect to tradition. “La Lune est Croche”

Lena Prima:  Prima La Famiglia You don’t have to be Italian to enjoy Lena’s reconnection with her roots. They’re songs her father would sing but this time, its her voice. “Come On A My House”

Jon BatisteHollywood Africans – If you’re a fan of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” you know what he looks like.  The late night show bandleader provides a much deeper glance with this release featuring solo piano and singing.  “Don’t Stop”

Louie Ludwig‘sTroll Factory” – No album this year from this politically impish New Orleans songwriter and video maker but his proletariat perspective of this new world sweat shop hits it out of the proverbial Zenit Arena.  If you like, check out his YouTube Channel.

Thank you. Please subscribe so you can be informed of future shows and postings. 

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Show focuses on happier reasons to remember December 7th

December 7th is most recognized in the United States as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day but its also the birthday of two very important New Orleans musicians: Louis Prima and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux.  Get the show started and then read on about their music and other features of this episode of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa.

LOUIS PRIMA

The attack on Pearl Harbor was 31 years off when Louis Prima was born in 1910. He grew up listening to the nascent jazz of New Orleans, including Louis Armstrong. He formed a jazz band when he was a teenager, moved into swing during the 30’s, led a big band in the 40’s and was part of jump blues scene before settling down in the Las Vegas scene in the 1950’s. Like Satchmo, Prima played the trumpet but it was his singing that made him famous. 

My first real encounter of him was his singing  “I Wanna Be Like You” in the Disney animation “Jungle Book.”  Later, he claimed that voicing the swinging orangutan King Louie in the film was a highlight of his career. You’ll hear that song on this show along with one of his Italian songs.  His daughter, Lena Prima, also sings a song in his set. 

Monk Boudreaux featured on the 2013 OffBeat Magazine Jazz Fest Guide. Boudreaux performed at the first New Orleans Jazz an Heritage Festival in 1970. 

Bombs were dropping on Pearl Harbor when Big Chief Monk Boudreaux was born in 1941.  Of course, he wasn’t the chief of the Golden Eagles then.  As a Black Indian of Mardi Gras Chief, Boudreaux was highly regarded.  But when he paired with his buddy Big Chief Bo Dollis and formed the Wild Magnolias, the recording put the unusual cultural art form of Mardi Gras Indians on an international stage.  Tootie Montana may be the Chief of All Chiefs but Boudreaux is the Chief of all recording chiefs.  I could almost fill a whole show of his performances without ever violating the federal streaming rule that prohibits playing more than three songs from one artist name. Boudreaux performs with a wide range of artists, including Tab Benoit and Anders Osborne (songs featured in this show.)

There’s lots more to the show but why don’t you just let it flow over you.  Hang in there to near the end and you’ll get an encore performance of Chief Boudreaux performing with his grandson J’wan Boudreaux, the spy boy for the Golden Eagles who fronts his own band, Cha Wa.  Thanks for tuning in and consider subscribing.  Thank you.

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Southern rock, funk and cajun fill this week’s menu of music

Five Thursdays in November means a “lagniappe” serving of Gumbo YaYa, this time with a sweet mix of southern rock, funk and alternative cajun and zydeco.  Check it out!

I also celebrate Dr. Michael White’s 64th birthday with a song made famous by Janis Joplin.  Lots of 2018 music played on this show including songs by Jonathon Long (opening track), Michot’s Melody Makers, Sean Ardoin, Eric Lindell, Shawn Williams, Marcia Ball, Ted Hefko and a very new collaboration by Ivan Neville and Chris Jacobs.   Thanks you for tuning in or listening afterwards.  

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Thanksgiving holiday show is about being home

To me, the Thanksgiving holiday is about being at home with loved ones. And so this show is about getting home and being home. 

After Earl King sings about “Eating and Sleeping” (a succinct description of the typical Thanksgiving Day), I move on to this show’s theme with Seth Walker’s “Home Again.”  I switch genre with a rock steady number by New Orleans reggae group 007 and finish the set with Clifton Chenier doing “I Am Coming Home.”

The Radiators do “The Long Hard Journey Home” and Lloyd Price asks for a another chance with “Let Me Come Home Baby.”  Hoagy Carmichael’s early composition “My Home, New Orleans” gets a wonderful instrumental treatment by Al Hirt later in the show followed by Papa Grows Funk.  

Before performing “Home”, Paul Sanchez introduces horn players Craig Klein and Shamarr Allen with a story of how these musicians helped him restore his home after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it.  Stay with the show through to the end and you’ll hear Lena Prima’s song “Come On a My House” and Clarence Brown singing “On My Way Back Home.”

I hope the holidays find you in a place that you can call home. My best to you. Thanks for listening. 

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Female New Orleans Artists take the Gumbo YaYa stage

Every year, I’ve done a show featuring exclusively female artists and every time I do it, I ask myself why I don’t it more often. This show is awesome so get it started and then read on.

It’s not that I don’t play these artists at other times. In fact, I play them frequently but some times its nice just to give these wonderful musicians the full spotlight — without the guys in the way.  And each year, as I learn more about the New Orleans music scene, the show gets better.

This show starts in the delightful embrace of Ingrid Lucia’s  “My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms.”  And the show just keeps getting better.  Lynn Drury, who is featured later in the show, joins Margie Perez, Monica McIntyre, and Paula August Jepson  in  “Got to Tell Ya” from The Honeypots-– an album I found in my last foray through the Louisiana Music Factory.  I follow that with songs by  Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses and Marva Wright.  

For this show, I emphasized all, or mostly all, women bands and bands fronted by women. Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue scores on both fronts. She has a talented team backing her up including a female bass player and drummer.  In all, I spin 26 tracks by female artists from New Orleans, including Rosie Ledet, Gina Forsyth, Yvette Landry, Dana Abbott, Albanie Falletta, Helen Gillet, and, of course, Irma Thomas.

Also, the best-known (if not only) all female brass band from New Orleans, the Original Pinettes Brass Band crank out their own version of “Who You Gonna Call.”

Inspired by the release of the documentary,  “How They Got Over,”   about African-American gospel quartets and their role in rock n’ roll, I do a set of spirituals starting with the all-female gospel quartet, Southern Harps – – Zion Trinity and Mahalia Jackson fill out that uplifting set.

Stay tuned for my Thanksgiving show which is already in the can and ready to be posted early next week.  Thanks for listening.

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Digging deeper in new and old releases

This week’s show is one of me catching up on playing music I’ve been meaning to get to but hadn’t been able to work it into a set.  Here it is, with announcements edited out.

Tin Men’s “Tootie Ma is a Big Fine Thing” is another fine demonstration of how well Matt Perrine can play melody on a sousaphone. Their new album is Sing with Me and it kicks off the show.  I dive into an earlier album of Bon Bon Vivant by playing the title track from”Paint & Pageantry,” serving notice that this show will rock a bit more than usual. By the time Bill Pierce does the Sonny Landreth number “Zydecoldsmobile” we are definitely rocking.

hoodooFor some reason the 2001 release The Hoodoo Kings sitting in the KAOS blues section managed to elude my discovery until recently. This one-off album features  Eddie Bo of New Orleans along with two well-regarded Baton Rouge musicians, Raful Neal and Rockin’ Tabby Thomas. I played “Luberta” and expect to hear more from this album in future shows. Ivan Neville’s collaboration with Chris Jacobs makes its debut on my show with “Money Talks” and I also play the opening track of the Ever More Nest release “Unraveling.”

A new group called Old Riley and Water also debut on my show and I play from Lena Prima’s new release Prima La Famiglia.  There’s more in the show but if I haven’t convinced you to start playing by now, there’s no point writing any more. But if you do like, please subscribe.  See you next week.

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