So many great releases this year, I had to break it up into two parts. As you will see, there is no order or reason to who is Part 1 versus Part 2.
This is not a comprehensive list of New Orleans 2015 releases but rather music I played on my show this year, thanks to the generosity of the artists who shared their creations with me or my station. Not every artist can afford to distribute music to a West Coast small market station like KAOS. So if you did, thank you.
Tubaluba – I’m starting close to home because this Seattle-based brass band has every intention of closing the gap between the Northwest and New Orleans. Crescent City wannabe Josh Wilson leads the group with total dedication to capturing the spirit and tradition of New Orleans brass and R&B music. Their first release Champagne Sunday delivers. You can catch these guys locally. So do it!
Helen Gillet – This Belgian cellist creates haunting, beautiful melodies often to a hypnotic rhythm capable of transporting you far from wherever you are. If you’ve caught her one-person performances using loops, you’ll find that her latest release Bangkok Silver ably recreates that experience and more. I’ve only caught two tracks so far but I want more.
Shamarr Allen – This creative young trumpeter who writes infectiously upbeat songs with lyrics that open himself to his audience (including giving out his real phone number) isn’t planning on releasing True Orleans until spring 2016. Throughout this year though, he’s been sharing his musical ideas with fans through “mixtapes“available for download. His past CDs are fun too. Check him out.
Paul Sanchez – Speaking of fearless songwriters, this founding member of Cowboy Mouth clearly loves challenges, like putting Dan Baum’s Nine Lives to music. With his 12th solo release, his vision goes global with The World is Round: Everything That Ends Begin Again. Filled with enjoyable tracks that bounce between pop, rock and folk, the CD provides a complete orbit of a man who truly lives and loves to write songs.
Dash Rip Rock – Over the last two decades, this three-piece band with a bent sense of humor and distinctive alt-country swamp punk sound has built a loyal regional following. Their latest release Wrongheaded leans deliciously toward Southern rock emphasizing stories over humor. There’s commitment in this release. They ain’t coming home until the sun comes up.
Jello Biafra and the New Orleans Raunch and Soul All Stars – Dash Rip Rock’s Bill Davis got Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) down to his city on a dare and put together a kick ass band for a night that I suspect many will remember till their dying day. Thankfully, for the many of us who missed it, Walk on Jindal’s Splinters does a good job of capturing the experience.
Billy Iuso – A journeyman guitarist that you may have heard but not heard of, Iuso continues building a strong repertoire of original songs with his latest release, Overstanding. He first caught my attention with his live show at the Freret Street Festival this year where every song just got better the longer he jammed.
Sneaky Pete & the Fens – If you have overdosed on too many versions of “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans,” then Live in Pompeii could be your anecdote. Writer Peter Orr turns to music to tell stories about his troubled girl, New Orleans — the Cajun Haiti “where half the state is toxic and the other half is in the sea.” Recorded in a grocery store that serves the Marigny neighborhood but sells a mezzanine level full of Mardi Gras paraphernalia, Orr shares what he loves and fears about his city.
Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers – Kermit does that delicate balancing act of playing to the tourists while also sustaining the love and loyalty of locals. He’s the genuine article. Grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward, co-founded Rebirth Brass Band, saved the Mother-in-Law Lounge and reveres Satchmo. His latest serving, #imsoneworleans, contributes to his icon status.
Ted Hefko and the Thousandaires – I had a hard time deciding what music shelf to place Distillations of the Blues when it arrived in the studio. Is it jazz, blues, folk or country? Trained mostly in New Orleans but having spent a good chunk of his professional life in New York, Hefko has returned home creating music, with engaging lyrics, that is fortunately a lot easier to listen to than it is define.
Charlie Dennard – Another example of the incredible depth of talent in New Orleans, Dennard lays down 10 jazzy, groove-based tracks on 5 o’clock Charlie with his Hammond B-3 organ and the able contributions of the rest of his trio. Grab your favorite mellow mood maker, it’s happy hour time.
Galactic – This year’s release Into The Deep harkens back to their first decade when the band was fronted by soul singer Theryl Declouet while illustrating how much this talented group has learned over their 20 years. A strong guest list of vocalists including Mavis Stables and Macy Gray carry the load this time. The band tours the Northwest February 26 and 27, 2016.
The Revivalists – With a sound designed to garner alternative rock air time, the Revivalists have built a national audience based on strong songwriting and energetic live performances. Galactic’s Ben Ellman returns as producer for Men Amongst Mountains which builds on the success they had with their previous City of Sound release. They hit the Northwest on March 9 and 10. 2016.
Smoky Greenwell – His New Orleans Blues Jam – Live at the Old U.S. Mint was released last year but didn’t find its way into the studio until this summer. The band righteously does straight ahead blues with a sweet number by accordionist, vocalist and park ranger Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes.
Thank you so much for reading this blog and listening to my show. If you like to keep in touch, please subscribe or send me an email. I may not live in New Orleans but my ears spend a lot of time there. Have a Happy New Year. Also check out last year’s review of 2014 releases.