2015 created great opportunities to explore NOLA music

I use this blog as way to prepare for my radio show on the Olympia community radio station, KAOS. Here’s some of the things I learned this year.

New Orleans "Professor" Allen Toussaint
Allen Toussaint was a featured “professor” in my ongoing series of New Orleans piano players.

Fascinated by the role of the piano in New Orleans, I started a series on New Orleans piano players that now includes James BookerAllen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, Tuts Washington,  and Dr. John. (More to follow).

During the carnival season, I explored the traditions and music of Black Indians of Mardi Gras .  That story led me to write about the importance of African American musicans from New Orleans in creating rock n’ roll.  I followed that up with Fats Domino and the role his performances played in getting black and white audiences to dance to the same beat.

Speaking of Mardi Gras, I provided a personal reminiscence then added a new Mardi Gras experience of bar hopping with the local brass band, Artesian Rumble Arkestra.

All You Need Is Love
Artesian Rumble Arkestra brought a “Mardi Gras” vibe to downtown Olympia as part of bar tour on Fat Tuesday.

My entry on New Orleans women in music resulted in one of my favorite radio shows of the year and helped me grow my knowledge of New Orleans music and the many wonderful women who create it.

I chose my Valentines show to dive into the history of the often recorded “Careless Love.”  Later I looked into the history of another New Orleans standard,  L’il Liza Jane. I also tracked down  songs about “sugar” which, as you’ll find, really are not about sweet granules.  I  also explored the Afro-Cuban connection or what Jelly Roll Morton called the “Spanish Tinge.” (Last year, I wrote an entry on the classic and checkered history of St. James Infirmary.)

One of my more popular entries was about the Galactic tour of 2015 when it played Bellingham, Seattle and Portland. Interestingly, the funk band is playing Seattle and Portland about the same time in February of 2016.

IMG_1454As you might expect, I have several entries on New Orleans institutions, including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Preservation Hall, the jazz funeral,  the Freret Street Festival, French Quarter Festival, and the end of smoking in New Orleans nightclubs.

Drawing on my April trip to New Orleans, I wrote about the magnetic pull of New Orleans to young musicians of all genres. I  also shared my experience of touring the currently closed Dew Drop Inn with the grandson of its founder.

The 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina inspired a couple of entries, including this one that chronicled the activities of some of New Orleans better known musicians. This entry also has links to my two radio shows honoring that anniversary with music and excerpts from Spike Lee’s documentary.

And I finished off the year, as I did last year, with a short catalog of the 2015 New Orleans music releases featured on my show.  Part 1.  Part 2.

I hope you enjoyed the music and the little bit of information I learn and share. I know I do. Subscribe if you’d like to follow what I learn in 2016. Happy New Year.

 

A bag full of New Orleans music videos for the holidays

Are you ready to get in the holiday spirit New Orleans style? Here’s the edited radio archived show inspired by the season.

I’ve pulled together another collection of videos of NOLA musicians celebrating the season. Starting with Shamarr Allen and friends busting moves to “This Christmas.”

Spencer Bohren fronts an all-star New Orleans cast including his son Andre and Marc Paradis of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Camille Baudin and Reggie Scanlon of The Radiators and featuring the amazing saxophone of Aurora Nealand.  

Hannukkah has passed and this isn’t necessarily a seasonal song but its a fascinating video of the New Orleans Klezmer All Star Band.  Check out that violin.

Tom Day Wait and his group Pigpen is another excellent example of how many young excellent musicians shun Nashville for New Orleans to do real country. Here he is doing “I’m Trimming My Christmas Tree with Teardrops.”

When that country sound hits New Orleans swing, sometimes the music comes out like”Santa’s Going Back Home,” by Jenavieve Cook & the Royal St Winding Boys. 

Kelcy Mae used to have to spend her holidays  splitting  time between her family and her partner. This poignant video and her elegant song celebrate how the legal and social acceptance of same sex marriages (and the relationships that build toward that commitment) make it easier to stay together during Christmas.  

I’ll have some of these songs above and much more on Monday’s show. You all have a fine and relaxing holiday. Stay in touch by subscribing and tuning in.

This is my second year of offering holiday videos. Check out last year’s collection which features Kermit Ruffins, Bonerama, Aaron Neville, Luke Winslow-King, Benny Bunch, TBC Brass Band, Paul Sanchez, Funky Butt Brass Band, and Trombone Shorty.

Your 2015 New Orleans Music Buying Guide – Part 2

So many great releases this year, I had to break it up into two parts. As you will see, there is no order or reason to who is Part 1 versus Part 2.

This is not a comprehensive list of New Orleans 2015 releases but rather music I played on my show this year, thanks to the generosity of the artists who shared their creations with me or my station. Not every artist can afford to distribute music to a West Coast small market station like KAOS. So if you did, thank you.

Tubaluba comes to Olympia
Seattle-based brass band Tubaluba released Champagne Sunday this year.

Tubaluba – I’m starting close to home because this Seattle-based brass band has every intention of closing the gap between the Northwest and New Orleans. Crescent City wannabe Josh Wilson leads the group with total dedication to capturing the spirit and tradition of New Orleans brass and R&B music. Their first release Champagne Sunday delivers. You can catch these guys locally. So do it!

Helen Gillet – This Belgian cellist creates haunting, beautiful melodies often to a hypnotic rhythm capable of transporting you far from wherever you are. If you’ve caught her one-person performances using loops, you’ll find that her latest release Bangkok Silver ably recreates that experience and more. I’ve only caught two tracks so far but I want more.

Shamarr Allen – This creative young trumpeter who writes infectiously upbeat songs with lyrics that open himself to his audience (including giving out his real phone number) isn’t planning on releasing True Orleans until spring 2016. Throughout this year though, he’s been sharing his musical ideas with fans through “mixtapesavailable for download. His past CDs are fun too. Check him out.

Paul Sanchez – Speaking of fearless songwriters, this founding member of Cowboy Mouth clearly loves challenges, like putting Dan Baum’s Nine Lives to music. With his 12th solo release, his vision goes global with The World is Round: Everything That Ends Begin Again. Filled with enjoyable tracks that bounce between pop, rock and folk, the CD provides a complete orbit of a man who truly lives and loves to write songs.

dashriprock
Bill Davis fronting Dash Rip Rock, performing at the French Quarter Festival in April 2015.

Dash Rip Rock – Over the last two decades, this three-piece band with a bent sense of humor and distinctive alt-country swamp punk sound has built a loyal regional following. Their latest release Wrongheaded leans deliciously toward Southern rock emphasizing stories over humor. There’s commitment in this release. They ain’t coming home until the sun comes up.

Jello Biafra and the New Orleans Raunch and Soul All Stars – Dash Rip Rock’s Bill Davis got Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) down to his city on a dare and put together a kick ass band for a night that I suspect many will remember till their dying day. Thankfully, for the many of us who missed it, Walk on Jindal’s Splinters does a good job of capturing the experience.

bonerama
Billy Iuso, on guitar, performing with Bonerama’s Mark Mullins (left) and Craig Klein during this year’s Freret Street Festival.

Billy Iuso  – A journeyman guitarist that you may have heard but not heard of, Iuso continues building a strong repertoire of original songs with his latest release, Overstanding.  He first caught my attention with his live show at the Freret Street Festival this year where every song just got better the longer he jammed.

Sneaky Pete & the Fens – If you have overdosed on too many versions of “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans,” then Live in Pompeii  could be your anecdote. Writer Peter Orr turns to music to tell stories about his troubled girl, New Orleans — the Cajun Haiti “where half the state is toxic and the other half is in the sea.” Recorded in a grocery store that serves the Marigny neighborhood but sells a mezzanine level full of Mardi Gras paraphernalia, Orr shares what he loves and fears about his city.

Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers – Kermit does that delicate balancing act of playing to the tourists while also sustaining the love and loyalty of locals. He’s the genuine article. Grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward, co-founded Rebirth Brass Band, saved the Mother-in-Law Lounge and reveres Satchmo. His latest serving, #imsoneworleans, contributes to his icon status.

Ted Hefko and the Thousandaires – I had a hard time deciding what music  shelf to place Distillations of the Blues when it arrived in the studio. Is it jazz, blues, folk or country?  Trained mostly in New Orleans but having spent a good chunk of his professional life in New York, Hefko has returned home creating music, with engaging lyrics, that is fortunately a lot easier to listen to than it is define.

Charlie Dennard – Another example of the incredible depth of talent in New Orleans, Dennard lays down 10  jazzy, groove-based tracks on 5 o’clock Charlie with his Hammond B-3 organ and the able contributions of the rest of his trio. Grab your favorite mellow mood maker, it’s happy hour time.

Galactic
Galactic – (From Left) Jeff Mercurio, Ben Ellman, Dan Vogel, Jeff Raines and Stanton Moore.

Galactic – This year’s release Into The Deep harkens back to their first decade when the band was fronted by  soul singer Theryl Declouet while illustrating how much this talented group has learned over their 20 years. A strong guest list of vocalists including Mavis Stables and Macy Gray carry the load this time. The band tours the Northwest February 26 and 27, 2016.

The Revivalists – With a sound designed to garner alternative rock air time, the Revivalists have built a national audience based on strong songwriting and energetic live performances. Galactic’s Ben Ellman returns as producer for Men Amongst Mountains which builds on the success they had with their previous City of Sound release. They hit the Northwest on March 9 and 10. 2016.

Smoky Greenwell – His New Orleans Blues Jam – Live at the Old U.S. Mint was released last year but didn’t find its way into the studio until this summer. The band righteously does straight ahead blues with a sweet number by accordionist, vocalist and park ranger Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes.

Thank you so much for reading this blog and listening to my show. If you like to keep in touch, please subscribe or send me an email.  I may not live in New Orleans but my ears spend a lot of time there.  Have a Happy New Year. Also check out last year’s review of 2014 releases.

Your 2015 New Orleans Music Buying Guide – Part 1

Here’s Part One of my survey of New Orleans (and nearby) releases for 2015 worthy of your attention. I’ve played this music on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa and I’ll play them a lot more through the rest of this month. So many good releases, there will be a part two very soon.  The first four albums below were featured heavily in my November 30 show and many of the albums following those four were featured in this show.

The New Orleans Jazz Vipers – An institution on Frenchmen Street that gained fame through the HBO series Treme, the Vipers have locked in their reputation with their fifth release, Going, Going Gone. The six-member band will take you back to the day when swing bands were laying the foundation for R&B.

Red-Hot-Brass-Band
Doyle Cooper fronts the Red Hot Brass Band

Red Hot Brass Band – Fire-bearded Doyle Cooper keeps the spirit alive. Don’t let his youth fool you. Doyle grew up in the tradition and has the chops to prove it. His band’s inaugural release Hot Off the Presses hits the usual touchstones like Tiger Rag, West End Blues, Bourbon Street Parade and Go To the Mardi Gras. But there’s nothing stale about their execution.

Shotgun Jazz Band – I dare you to try to sit still while listening to Yearning. They bill themselves as playing traditional New Orleans jazz in the spirit of the Great Revivalists.  It’s fresh, uncluttered and expertly delivered. It came out late enough last year that I’m including it in this 2015 review.

Aurora Nealand & the Royal Roses –  I totally missed this 2014 release  until I bought The Lookback Transmission from Aurora during a break at the Maison last spring.  Uber-talented Nealand demonstrates her ability to put a fresh, entertaining spin on traditional jazz and swing. Having sousaphone savant Matt Perrine backing her doesn’t hurt either. Everyone of the 16 tracks are a delight.

 

novelli
Peter Novelli hits his stride with St. Amant Sessions

Peter Novelli – His third release, St. Amant Sessions, reminds me how engaging blues can be, particularly in the hands of a songwriter and performer who knows how to shake it up with zydeco, swamp, slide and funk. From Shreveport Stomp to I-10 Boogie to his anecdotal Drinkin’ and Driving, Novelli has solidified his space on the KAOS blues shelf.

Little Freddie King – His distinctive delta/country blues makes him easy to love. His persistence in returning to the city after Katrina to live, perform and record is another testament of why I love New Orleans. His latest Messin’ Around tha Livin’ Room (a reference to the Algiers studio he recorded in) delivers beyond expectation.

Papa Mali – Also recorded at the The Living Room, Music is Love mixes covers of Joni Mitchell, Fred McDowell, Mississippi John Hurt, Lead Belly and the title track by David Crosby with a few originals by this former reggae rocker, turned funk, blues, swamp guru.

Josh Garrett – Having returned to Louisiana after a brief flirtation with Nashville, Garrett deploys just the right mix of delta blues, soul, swing  and swamp in Honey For My Queen. Baton Rouge legend James Johnson who played with Slim Harpo joins in while fiddler Waylon Thibodeux adds one more reminder where this music is coming from.

deslondes
Unapologetically New Orleans country, The Deslondes.

The Deslondes – This young band defies New Orleans music stereotype while creating country-infused songs rooted in the city’s soul. The self-titled debut album presents an array of facets with all five band members contributing songs and taking turns on singing. Like all memorable CDs, this one grows on me the more I push “play.”

Lynn Drury –  Another 2014 release that I missed last year but deserves mention. I fell in love with Lynn when I first caught the video of her CD title track “Come to My House video.  This collection is a powerful observation of love with wonderful, occasionally sultry vocals and excellent guitar support by Alex McMurray.

The Radiators –  The band that wouldn’t die. Allegedly retired, the Radz still occasionally perform for those lucky enough to catch them.  For the rest of us, there is the Wild and Free releases. Part II includes vintage performances from the Dream Palace, Tipitina’s and Knight Studios. Get your fishhead on.

the rads
A true holiday gift – Another release from the Radiators.

Clayton Doley – Funky didgeridoo!  What else needs to be said?  A lot if we’re talking about Bayou Billabong. Doley’s an Aussie but he recorded part of this CD at the Music Shed in New Orleans with the backing of the Absolute  Monster Gentlemen (as in Jon Cleary and . . .) and the Treme Funktet.

Jon Cleary –Speaking of Cleary, his releases are always a delight. Sadly, for GoGo Juice, he switched from Basin Street Records, which has always done a great job of sharing music with KAOS, to a new label which has failed in that chore. Still, the cuts I’ve heard on line show he continues to be a master of blending soul, funk and R&B.

Catch my show on Mondays or online.  And subscribe to the blog to be sure to catch Part 2 of this 2015 retrospective.