Hard Way to Live When You Live Like You’re Dead

Sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing with a show until its all put together. Then it’s like a musical version of a Rorschach test. Except there’s no need for a psychology degree to interpret the opening song by Bon Bon Vivant with “It’s a hard way of living when you’re dead. . .when you’re living like you’re already dead.” (You can hear that song right now when you start the show in the box below. )

It’s not surprising that the longer the COVID period stretches on, the more I think about Prince Prospero in The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe. Not that I’m ready to leave the castle. Or give up on masks and hand sanitizer. But the castle doesn’t have to be a prison.

The New Orleans Suspects catch that spirit of escape with “Neighborhood Strut” followed by All That, a band featuring Kirk Joseph and Davis Rogan, taking us back to the 1970’s with “Roll With It.” Sunpie Barnes declares”I don’t want no more of dem black beans, cornbread, molasses” in “Down in the Bottom.” Later, after Irvin Mayfield’s “The Elder Negro Speaks” serves as a recognition for the late Congressman John Lewis (who fortunately didn’t accept the status quo), Cyril Neville and the Royal Southern Brotherhood sing their protest anthem “Stand Up.”

With the ability to gather in front of live music gone for the time being, we live in the era of virtual festivals. Which does have the advantage allowing us to experience New Orleans without getting on a plane. I plug the upcoming Satchmo SummerFest which will be doing Louis Armstrong inspired cooking demonstrations on local television and musical performances shared on the festival’s Facebook live page  on Saturday, August 1 and Sunday, August 2. The annual festival is in honor of Louis Armstrong’s birthday. “Yes, I’m in the Barrel” a 1925 Armstrong Hot Five recording heralds this event in the show.

Other highlights of this week’s program include a 10-minute plus version of “Hold ‘Em Joe” featuring bluegrass and New Orleans musicians and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux – performing before a live audience at the Maple Leaf Bar. Spencer Bohren covers Hank Williams’ “Mind Your Own Business.” Allday Radio directs us to “Get Over Me, I’m Over You.” Terrance Simien and his Zydeco band performs “Johnny Too Bad.” And much more. It’s two hours of music from New Orleans. Thanks for tuning in.

June Yamagishi delivers excellent argument for open borders

June Yamagishi shocked his agent when he announced that despite a revered career as a guitarist in Japan, he wanted to live and work in New Orleans. On the occasion of his 65th birthday, this episode of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa celebrates his decision. But wait there’s more. (But go ahead and get the show started)

june 2.jpg
June Yamagishi playing with Cyril Neville and Corey Henry in October 2017.

Chocolate Milk, a popular New Orleans funk band from the 70’s, kick the show off with their opening song from their 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival performance.  I follow that up with a set of music featuring June Yamagishi and his guitar. Two tracks from Papa Grows Funk, a band he was part of for 13 years. Because he also loves Mardi Gras Indian music, I included a song by The Wild Magnolias that features some strong Yamagishi licks.

Also, here’s a link to a short video of his cameo appearance on the HBO show, Treme, where he is trying out for the band being assembled by Wendell Pierce’s character.

From this point in the show, I swing through a jazz set that starts with a classic King Oliver number from the late 1920’s and finishes with a recent recording by Preservation Hall Jazz Band featuring an original song.

Coco Robicheaux kicks off the next set which offers two songs about the importance of keeping on the good side of your woman. Paula of Paula and the Pontiacs sings about the importance of getting the coffee (grind) right while Larry Garner, with help from Buckwheat Zydeco, does a number called “Ms. Boss.”

Three contemporary zydeco and cajun numbers push the boundaries of those genres with the help of Bonsoir Catin, the Lost Bayou Ramblers and Rosie Ledet.  A country/folk sets follows before I swing back into funk and finish with a genre-busting song by the BlueBrass Project.   Actually, Irma Thomas gets the last word with “Since I Fell for You,” with Dr. John on piano.

There now, lots of reasons to keep listening.  Thanks for tuning in.