Tiffany Pollack, Okra, Cajun Singles and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Tiffany Pollack & Co. hits the post-pandemic music scene with momentum from a brand new record that opens up new avenues for this singer, songwriter, band leader and occasional mortician. One song kicks off this week’s show which she calls in on about an hour later for a live KAOS radio interview. (The episode below is the KMRE version of the same show and airs in Bellingham on Fridays).

Tiffany Pollack -Currently performing regularly on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans.

Following up on the success of her blues album recorded with cousin Eric Johansen, New Orleans-based Pollack collected a dozen of her original songs, went to Memphis with her band and recorded Bayou Liberty with the assistance of producer and blues musician John Nemeth. But its far from a blues album. In the course of our conversation, we both agreed our favorite track is Mountain, a Western style number featuring pedal steel and sweet vocals. Others songs channel honky-tonks, early morning smoky (now smoke-free) nightclubs and sticky-seated dives where you go mainly for the crawfish and beer.

As a mother of three, she also shares how her kids do a good job of keeping her in her place, no matter how bright her music star shines. And yea, she talks briefly about how as a licensed funeral director she still gets called in to do services for that short-handed business.

From the 1956 film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

A great find of fresh okra at the Olympia Farmer’s Market last weekend inspired a set of music featuring two versions of Mr. Okra — a song written by Sonia Tetlow and Craig Klein in honor of Arthur James Robins (Mr. Okra) who drove a colorful vegetable truck through the streets of New Orleans with sing-song amplified announcements of available produce. He died in 2018 (NPR story). To introduce that song, I play a brief clip from an earlier interview with Craig Klein about the process of writing that song with Tetlow. Later in the set, Monk Boudreaux sings a Jamaican-inflected “Mr. Okra Man” – in his own take of the street vendor. The set ends with the Tin Men’s “The Darling of the Okra Strut” which, best I can tell, really has nothing to do with the mucilaginous vegetable. (However, it did get me thinking about whether okra are interstellar aliens! Afterall we call them “pods.”)

This week’s show also includes another set of Cajun music, thanks to Olympia-area producer and musician Calvin Johnson’s secret stash of collectible 45 rpm records. This time, I throw in a live recorded song by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys from Bill Boelens Festivals Acadiens 1991-1997.

The show’s first full set rocks with Cowboy Mouth’s early hit “Jenny Says” and The Radiators urging us to “Never Let Your Fire Go Out.” Later Tommy Malone sings “All Dressed Up,” the Honeypots perform “Witness”, Los Hombres Calientes does a send up of “George Porter” and Davis Rogan’s gives us his original song “Fly Away.” Davis, by the way, will be performing in Olympia on August 26 in a house concert. Message me to learn more about it. Thanks for tuning in.

Tiffany Pollack & Co. at the “Legendary” HiHo Lounge pre-COVID.

Author: Tim Sweeney

Host of Sweeney's Gumbo YaYa - a two-hour radio show featuring the music of New Orleans -- every Thursday starting at 10 a.m. (PST) on community radio station KAOS 89.3 FM Olympia, Washington -- www.kaosradio.org. Show also airs on Fridays, 7 p.m., KMRE, 102.3 FM, Bellingham.

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