I was in my 30’s when I finally understood that the deep depression I experienced every time I moved was related to having left New Orleans when I was a child. Hosting a radio show of New Orleans music has been cathartic. And today’s show marks five years on the air. (you can get the show started and then continue reading this post.)
Joe Lastie’s “New Orleans in Me” speaks to how when you live away from New Orleans (as happened with hundreds of thousands of residents post Hurricane Katrina) , the city stays with you. The song has always resonated for me and it opens this show as a way to honor why I’ve been doing this show for five years.
I was 10 when my family moved away and my heart stayed with the city, aided by frequent visits, until I moved out of the south after I graduated from college. The Northwest was such a good fit for me that over time, I lost touch with my New Orleans feelings — except that sense of loss that would return every time I moved into a new apartment or home.
By the time I returned to visit my sister who had moved back, it had been almost 30 years since I had visited New Orleans. I caught the New Orleans Nightcrawlers at the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which caused me to have almost a mystical experience. I just loved their sound and quickly learned that there was more to New Orleans music than Dixieland. The Nightcrawlers open the first full set of the show with “Can of Worms.”
I do a funk set with Mem Shannon, Allen Toussaint and Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. I make sure New Orleans Bounce is represented with the Queen of Bounce Big Freedia doing “Lift Dat Leg Up.”
I try to hint at the diversity of New Orleans music with original songs by Leyla McCalla, Anders Osborne, Kelcy Mae and Lena Prima. I throw in a fun set of Zydeco as well since that is music I would not have learned to love if I had not been doing this show. I hope you have a chance to listen to some of my shows and appreciate the uniquely melting pot American music that emanates from New Orleans
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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.
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.
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.
I love this version by Debbie Davis and the Mesmerizers with the sousaphone bass line handled by her husband Matt Perrine. Matt shows up later in the show with his own project, Matt Perrine and Sunflower City. Yes, its a sunny day but the song, originally recorded by the Kinks, seems to capture Amazon’s petulant response to the city’s modest attempt to try to get the $700 billion company to take some responsibility for the housing shortages in Seattle.
Enough politics, let’s talk immigration instead. Anders Osborne moved to New Orleans as youth from Uddevalla, Sweden. Today, he turned 52 and I play his song “My Old Heart.” The Dirty Bourbon River Show’s “Ruffian Since Birth” provides a nice follow up to Osborne’s number
Diablo’s Horns offers a silly take on addiction (and seasonal allergies) in their song “The Sneeze” and The Crooked Vines heat things up with “Organ Holler.” I’m almost done with my sequential march through Marcia Ball’s latest release Shine Bright and perhaps my favorite surprise in this show was finding Bon Bon Vivant’s latest release and playing “Dust.”
Another fun discovery is Mary Flower’s “Main Street Blues” which features Dr. Michael White (clarinet), Washboard Chaz and Matt Perrine (sousaphone). Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe. Cheers.
So much great music, I couldn’t put it all in one post so here’s part two. (Check out 2016 Part 1) As you will quickly notice, there is no order to my lists. The only rule is I only list music from New Orleans (and nearby locales) I play on my show. Like the following:
Corey Henry – I’ve been waiting for Lapeitah, Henry’s debut solo album, ever since I heard “Boe Money” the song that carries his nickname on Galactic’s 2010 Ya Ka May release. Henry’s powerful trombone and songwriting mix of funk, R&B, soul and hip hop creates the experience I associate with the music I hear at New Orleans nightclubs. It’s no coincidence that Henry and his Treme Funket was the undisputed heir apparent of Kermit Ruffins legendary Thursday spot at Vaughn’s. Lapeitah does an excellent job of putting you in that Ninth Ward club with him.
The New Orleans Suspects – Just as you would not want to ever miss a live performance of the New Orleans Suspects, you should not go without possessing their fourth album–and second one with original songs. Kaleidoscoped delivers eight original numbers that makes me miss New Orleans and the original grooves that these journeymen musicians produce.
Kenny Neal – Bloodline hooks you from the opening number “Ain’t Gon Let the Blues Die.” And the rest of the album holds true to the promise. Nominated for best contemporary blues album grammy, this 2016 release is a full nod toward the amazing support this successful blues artist has received from his family members, who back him up on vocals and instruments throughout the album.
Bobby Rush – Porcupine Meat just scored Rush’s fourth grammy nomination– this time for best traditional blues album. Though he lives in Mississippi by way of Chicago and his birthplace Homer, La., this release is actually the first one that the 83-year-old blues veteran has recorded in New Orleans and some cool folks stop by to help out, such as Cornell Williams (bass), Kirk Joseph (sousaphone), Shane Theriot (guitar), and David Torkanowsky (keyboards). Be sure to cue up and listen to “Funk O De Funk.”
Miss Sophie Lee – Nightclub owner Sophie Lee returns to the recording studio with Traverse the Universe. She has a sweet voice and her band does a nice turn with the handful of standards on the album but its her original songs, particularly her title track, that had me reaching for it to play regularly on my show.
Jeff Chaz – Chaz and his trio are hardworking blues musicians who can be seen regularly playing on Frenchmen Street and the French Quarter. He put out two releases this year: Sounds Like the Blues to Me and The Silence is Killing Me. Both are solid blues albums with numbers like “Fried Chicken Store” and “Savin’ Everything for You.” The latter release offers a holiday tune as well – “Merry Christmas to You.”
Herlin Riley – A regular with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Riley can be a straight up jazz drummer but there’s no question where his roots lie. As he says: “As a boy growing up in New Orleans, way before you heard that big bass drum in the street parades, you could feel it coming from four or five blocks away, and it would literally beckon you to come on down to the street, check out this music, and participate in it. ” Riley jazzes it up on New Directions but by the time you get to his hip version of Tutti Ma, you will like the direction he’s headed.
Dr. John – Recorded in 2014 in the historic Saenger Theater on Canal Street in New Orleans, The Musical Mojo of Dr. John offers two discs of many of New Orleans elite such as Irma Thomas, Cyril and Aaron Neville, Anders Osborne, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Zigaboo Modeliste and Dave Malone, paired with familiar outsiders like Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, Chuck Leavell, and Mavis Staples. With the venerable Mac Rebennak (Dr. John) in the middle, how can you not be satisfied wit dat package!
Smoky Greenwell – Another visiting musician who came to the city for a gig and stayed a lifetime, Greenwell has been cranking out the blues in New Orleans for 35 years and his last two releases are arguably his best. I particularly like it when he puts down his harmonica and reaches for his saxophone on South Louisiana Blues.
Gina Forsyth– This New Orleans-based musician is wickedly good on fiddle and guitar. Yea, you don’t expect this type of music in New Orleans. So what. Copper Rooster and Other Tunes and Tales provides a dozen and a half smile inducing old timey numbers that will have you reaching for the play again button.
Mark and the Pentones – This blues trio, fronted by guitarist Mark Penton, may be one of the best reasons to stumble down Bourbon Street. Currently anchoring the swing shift at Funky Pirate Blues Club on Fridays and Saturdays, the Pentones released its debut album, Don’t Leave Nothin Behind, late last year with some subtle surprises among the 11 tracks. I particularly like “Jodie,” “Too Many Second Lines” and “I B Cing You.”
Keith Stone – The Prodigal Returns is the aptly named debut album of a native New Orleanian who sowed some wild oats in the 90’s as an area blues guitarist, settled down to be a minister in Kentucky and then came back home after Hurricane Katrina. The album features playful piano, strong guitar licks, and a solid horn arrangements. If you’re a dislocated NOLA homeboy feeling the tug of that big magnet at the end of the Mississippi River, this album will talk to you.
Louisiana Soul Revival Featuring Doug Duffey – Okay, I’ve wandered all the way up to Monroe, La. to grab this one. But all’s fair if the music is great. From the distinctive bass line opening of “Funky Bidneh” to the inviting saxophone on its last track “Love Into My Life”, this band’s debut release has a full sound that puts you front and center of your own Soul Revival.
Anders Osborne – This prolific musician, songwriter, and producer released two albums this year. Spacedust and Ocean Views and Flower Box. My station didn’t get Flower Box (that happens but don’t let it happen to your album) and I almost missed Spacedust because the music director justifiably placed it in our Folk, Country and Bluegrass shelf. I love his voice and his songs and I don’t care what shelf I have to check, I’ll be regularly reaching for his music to play on my show.
Allen Toussaint – This one breaks my heart. A year after his death, I still grieve. American Tunes is his last studio album, released this year posthumously. There’s little between you and Toussaint other than his piano, a drummer and bass. He doesn’t even sing except on a Paul Simon cover– though others do. As I listento him run through Big Chief , he’s in the room with me, playing the piano, with his leather sandal and sock clad feet working the pedals.