I’m Back Live, and Alive, in the KAOS Studio

Fourteen months after the KAOS studio closed to volunteers and most staff, I’m back at the control board slinging New Orleans music, honoring the life of Lloyd Price, exploring the new Jon Batiste record and digging deeper into the 2009 Midnite Disturbers’ performance at JazzFest. The recording of the show is available right now by clicking the arrow below. (But note that this is the version I edited for Bellingham so I say “KMRE” instead of “KAOS” on station IDs.)

For 60 weeks, I’ve prepared and recorded a Gumbo YaYa show in my upstairs spare bedroom — the one where my youngest son grew up in and which still has cats peering at me from the wallpaper. It’s a little creepy but so is going into a studio inside a building on a college campus that is almost like a ghost town. The first show was a little rough but I got it done and the music is good.

Back in the studio after all 14 months

Lloyd Price died last week at the age of 88. While he was long past his big hits (“Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Personality,” “Stagger Lee,” “I’m Gonna Get Married”), the Rock n Roll Hall of Famer was an entrepreneur involved in music, publication, construction and food processing. He also was a writer with an autobiography and a collection of essays “Sumdumhonky” which I’m reading now.

Lloyd Price was drafted and sent to Korea just as his singing career was taking off.

Price zoomed onto the music scene with “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” recorded in 1952 with Fats Domino banging out the song’s distinctive song opening triplets. The song became one of the biggest selling R&B records of 1952, crossing over to white audiences. He was drafted in 1954 and served in Korea so was taken out of commission at a time when Little Richard came screaming into the scene.

Upon his return to the music scene, he recorded a folk song Stagger Lee that went to the top of both the R&B and Pop charts. He followed that up with two other hits “Personality” and “I’m Gonna Get Married.”

Other highlights of the show include tracks from new records by Monk Boudreaux, Jon Batiste, and Secret Six Jazz Band. I also feature another track from the 2009 JazzFest performance by the Midnite Disturbers featuring some awesome trumpet work by Shamarr Allen and Trombone Shorty. Bumps Blackwell does a decent job of staging his new song (at the time) in a demo for Specialty Records. When Little Richard showed up to Cosimo Matassa’s studio he cut another hit with “Good Golly Miss Golly.” You’ll hear back to back tracks by Guitar Shorty and Guitar Slim – both songs recorded in New Orleans.

I throw in some Hot 8 Brass Band, Cowboy Mouth, Charlie Halloran and the Tropicales, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and much more. But the true joy of the show, at least for me, was to be able to do the backsell of the songs right after they were played for everyone. Check it out!

Louisiana delta-inspired music taking on a cry for help

Thanks to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High and hundreds of others, there is little doubt that our environment influences music.

The waters that flow through Louisiana originate in 31 states.
The waters that flow through Louisiana originate in 31 states.

 So it should be no surprise that musicians who reside at the tap end of North America’s largest drainage system write songs about rivers, wetlands, swamps and bayous.

Draining all or part of 31 states, the Mississippi River creates a powerful structure for creatives of all types to tell their stories.

In Louisiana, its the swamp that inpires many to “pole the pirogue down the bayou” (Jambalaya). These musicians may not really have swamp water running through their veins (Fire in the Bayou) but they know how to use the water’s magnetic pull to enliven a song.

Sitting at the soggy end of the 2,300 mile system, Louisiana and its bayou communities (including New Orleans) use the river, and its essential estuaries, as a lush backdrop for setting the mood–from boogie to blue.

In recent years, the music has been paying back in the struggle to restore and revitalize the delta environment. The flow of sediment of the Mississippi is less than half of what it was a century ago due to engineering the river to serve too many purposes. This means essential delta beds are not being replenished. Combine this steady decline in sediment, with the speed of climate change, and the bayou and the life and music it supports becomes more fragile by the day.

Tab Benoit started the Voice of the Wetlands to raise awareness about the importance of revitalizing the river system.
Tab Benoit started the Voice of the Wetlands to raise awareness about the importance of revitalizing the river system.

Voice of the Wetlands, started by Louisiana bluesman Tab Benoit, is a non-profit focused on raising awareness about the loss of the wetlands in southern Louisiana.

And as you might expect by an initiative launched by a musician, it uses the music of the Delta to reach the right ears, including performances before Republican and Democratic National conventions and an annual festival in Houma (about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans in bayou country).

The Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars often headlines the festival. Over the years, this recording and live performance ensemble has included Benoit, Dr, John, Cyril Neville, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, George Porter Jr., Waylon Thibodeaux, Anders Osborn and many others. This year’s festival is in October.

Muskrats, alligators, junebugs, and other critters crawl from the swamp into the music.
Muskrats, alligators, junebugs, and other critters crawl from the swamp into the music.

I’ve got close to a full two-hour show of songs about the bayou and bayou country so please tune in this Monday on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa (or catch it on archive) to hear Muskrat Ramble, Bayou Boogie, Swamp Funk and Junebug Waltz and others.

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