This week’s show is crammed with stories and recognitions, starting with the opening track by Louis Armstrong – “Irish Black Bottom” and carrying on with Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s 84th birthday, and grammy wins by the New Orleans Nightcrawlers and Bobby Rush. Go ahead and get it started and then read on.
I’m not sure what possessed Louis Armstrong to do Percy Venable’s “Irish Black Bottom.” Some have surmised that it was part of his act at the time he recorded it in November 1927 with his Hot Five. Certainly the song’s novelty fits with the sense of humor many associate with Satchmo. It helps to know that Black Bottom refers to a dance craze of that era — which was likely begun as a result of a Jelly Roll Morton song recorded a bit earlier called “Black Bottom Stomp.” Black Bottom refers to a neighborhood in Detroit which was occupied predominantly by African Americans but was named for its fertile dark soil.
The song opens the show and I follow through with a token set of Irish-like songs in honor of a day in which some celebrate Irish Heritage. Marc Gunn, Gina Forsyth, the Zydepunks and the Valparaiso Men’s Chorus represent in that set. I then keep the folk vibe going for one more set with the Tom Paines, Luke Winslow-King and Theresa Andersson, among others.
But then I repeat a short clip from my interview with the New Orleans Nightcrawlers who just won a grammy for their album Atmosphere. In the clip, Matt Perrine talks about how the band mediates between honoring the rich New Orleans music culture and incorporating new elements of interest to the nine members of this band. I follow that up with a couple of songs by Bobby Rush who also just won a grammy — his second in three years. He’s 87 years old.
Speaking of octogenarians, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, who was there when it all happened during the New Orleans R&B boom, turns 84 on Friday. I celebrate his birthday with three songs (the limit according to federal streaming rules).
But wait! There’s more. Allen Toussaint sings “Brickyard Blues” a song that was recorded by five different artists when he wrote it in 1974. But Allen recognizes Scottish soul singer Frankie Miller as his inspiration. Here’s the Miller version of Brickyard Blues.
And finally, near the end of this week’s two-hour show, I talk briefly about the Leroy Jones documentary “A Man and His Trumpet” streaming on Netflix. I play two songs by this exceptionally talented and dedicated trumpet player and band leader — perhaps the first member to be recruited by Danny Barker for the famous Fairview Baptist Marching Band. If you love New Orleans music, you should catch this documentary with great stories delivered by Jones as well as Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick Jr., Greg Stafford and Herlin Riley. As promised on the show, his goofy trailer.
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I love doing this show but the COVID closure of the KAOS studio has made it a true act of love.. Instead of slinging CD’s in real time, rocking out to the music and recording the show as it happens, I assemble the show, loading it up one song file at a time. But some times mistakes are made and for some reason, after my second try last week, I still had not managed to play Irma Thomas’ “Hittin on Nothin.’ That’s right I failed to hit Hittin on Nothin.
The first full set of this week’s show starts with that song and I think I got it right this time. The set is rounded out with Larry Williams’ “Bad Boy,” Creole String Beans “Seven Nights to Rock,” Lloyd Price’s “Where You At?” and a one-off record credited to “Marie Boubarere.” It’s possible this singer worked under other names as related by Dan Phillips in his wonderful music blog “Home of the Groove.”
Bobby Rush joins the show in the second set with a message recorded from his home. At 86, this grammy winning guitarist, singer, songwriter is still cranking out original music. Check out his website. That set also includes Leyla McCalla, Davell Crawford and Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes amongothers.
Andre Bouvier does a straight send up of the Kinks indictment of wealth “Sunny Afternoon” and from that song we flow into Smoky Greenwell’s anthem for the 99 percent and Occupy wall street movement.
Lena Prima has a done a wide mix of music including some wonderful personal songs of her own, but her live performance harkens to her father, Louie, in her live album recorded at the Dew Drop in Mandeville. You can hear and feel it when I do back to back Prima songs.
Later, Roland Guerin, who was Allen Toussaint”s bass player when he toured near the end of this life, does a song off his latest album and Delfeayo Marsalis takes a nice turn with the Sesame Street TV show theme song.
Much more in this show but I’ll let you discover those gems on your own. Let me know think by commenting on this page or you can reach me through Facebook. Keep tuned in.
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.