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.
Shamarr Allen wants to keep you in shape for when Second Lines return. This means today’s show kicks off with”Quarantine and Chill” and Allen’s exhortation that “just because you’re stuck in the house, don’t mean you can’t . . .show me that footwork!”
Get my show started and I’ll fill you in on the rest of the program’s line up.
Four more fine New Orleans artists help me out with calling the music this week, starting with Debbie Davis, former member of the Pfister Sisters. Davis has just released her second record with pianist Josh Paxton t– Interesting Times. She introduces us to her new album (about 5 minutes into the show) with “Other Than Everything, Everything’s Great” and “Will It Go Round in Circles.” She sings two more times in the set — David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” from her latest record and Lou Reed’s “After Hours” from an earlier project — Debbie Davis and the Mesmerizers.
Lena Prima comes on (at about 38 minutes into the show) to talk about how she’s been doing during the quarantine. As you can see from the picture, she’s been busy making masks. In her set, you’ll hear songs from three of her albums — the title track “Since the Storm”written by her husband who leads her band, “Jump for Joy” from her album of original songs Starting Something and a live recording of a classic pulled from her father’s songbook, “Scuba Diver.”
You will meet Sierra Green at about the 50 minute mark. Sierra Green & the Soul Machine recently received Offbeat Magazine‘s Best Emerging Artist award. You’ll hear two tracks from her self-titled debut record and, just for fun, I finish that set with Glen David Andrews powering through a Galactic number (You Don’t Know). If you were waiting to dance, wait no more!
Davis Rogan was scheduled to perform at Octapas in Olympia next month but obviously those plans are no longer. Like just about every professional musician with a mortgage, Davis has been learning how to get his music and his tip jar out on the Internet. You can catch his live performances on his Facebook page Sundays at 10 a.m. and Wednesdays at 4 p.m. (Left Coast Times). Rogan joins the show about 65 minutes in and introduces his latest single “Mardi Gras Chicken” followed by “No Blues” and “Fly Away.”
I throw in a set of Zydeco and Cajun along with a long string of brass band music kicked off by Chuck Carbo’s “Hurt Coming On.” But before I do that, I make a pitch for supporting community radio. My show airs on Thursdays on KAOS and Fridays on KMRE. Listener support is essential to these stations continued survival.
As for me, I just want to smile and you can make me smile by subscribing to this blog. I’ll be back next week.
Big Sam’s Funky Nation visits the Northwest this week so this show features two of his songs and a short interview with the band’s charismatic frontman Sam Williams. Let’s get started and I’ll tell you more.
Big Sam just got back from a tour of Spain when I talked with him today about his trip to the west coast. He leaves tomorrow (Friday, August 3rd) for San Francisco. He’ll play Mississippi Studio in Portland on Monday, August 6 and the Nectar Lounge in Seattle on Tuesday, August 7.
We talked about how he lost his prized trombone when his touring van got broken into last time he came out to the west. We also talked about how Wendell Pierce copied some of his moves and his style when he played Antoine Batiste in the HBO TV show Treme. In fact the broad outline of the character was patterned after Mr. Williams.
Big Sam’s Funky Nation’s new release Songs in the Key of Funk delivers on his earlier promise to include more dance songs. In this show, I play “What’s My Name (Big Sam” and “Buzzin.” But to get those songs and the interview, you have to listen to few other sets including a set of Led Zeppelin cover songs featuring a sousaphone on “Dyer Maker” and a three trombone salute to “When the Levee Breaks.”
Rolling with the HBO theme, Davis Rogan sings about the hassles of fake pot when acting in a song called “Prop Weed.” Also, this show includes my favorite version of St. James Infirmary, a rocking version led by Clint Maedgen and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band
This week’s show is about the one-handed piano player you have likely heard but not heard of. Edward Frank played on scores of R&B hits created in the Cosimo Matassa cauldron in the 50’s and early 60’s. But there’s more to the story so go ahead and get this week’s show started, kicked off by BeauSoleil’s “Bon Temps Rouler.”
This show celebrates Edward Frank’s birth anniversary. He was born June 14, 1932 and died in February 1997. Despite his early R&B history, he spent his later years playing more contemporary jazz at venues such as the Palm Court Cafe and Preservation Hall. He was a talented horn arranger and keyboardist, involved with Dr. John’s “Goin’ Back to New Orleans,” the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s”Jelly,” Snooks Eaglin’s “Soul’s Edge,” Tommy Ridgley’s “Since the Blues Began”and Chuck Carbo’s “Drawers Trouble” and “The Barber’s Blues.”
Frank was born and attended high school in New Orleans. Except for a stint at college and some time in Houston working Bobby Blue Bland, he mostly made his home in New Orleans. He also played in Europe with Lillian Boutte. His performances were made more remarkable because of a disability that rendered his left arm paralyzed. This show features Frank playing piano on songs by Lloyd Price, Bobby Charles and Shirley and Lee (backing them up on their hit, “Let the Good Times Roll.”)
But first you’ll be treated to a set that includes Carlo Ditta’s “Tell It Like It Is,” the New Orleans Jazz Vipers’ “Swing that Music” and Professor Longhair recorded live in Chicago.
Stay with the show after the Edward Frank set because Davis Rogan, another New Orleans piano player, calls into the show to talk about how he was given a valuable life lesson by Ed Frank after losing a spot in Kermit Ruffin’s band. This show also has songs by Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Hot 8 Brass Band (doing a long cover of “Sexual Healing”), Chocolate Milk, Corey Henry, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and a new song by Gal Holiday and her Honky Tonk Revue.
Thanks for listening and consider clicking the tab on the upper right to subscribe.
This week’s show is the last one before the 2018 Mardi Gras Day and Valentine’s Day so I mix Mardi Gras party music with love songs in this podcast. Go ahead and get it started and then read about the Davis Rogan interview
This is my fifth show during the 2018 Mardi Gras season and I’ve started each one with a different version of Professor Longhair’s Mardi Gras anthem – “Go to the Mardi Gras. ” For this, the last show before Fat Tuesday, I play ‘Fess himself. You have permission to whistle along.
I reach back into the heyday of New Orleans R&B for the Hawkettes’ “Mardi Gras Mambo” and, as is the tradition, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson performs the song that gave him his middle name. Cha Wa and The Wild Magnolias make appearances to represent Mardi Gras Indians, Louis Armstrong performs “Zulu King” and I play the rarely heard “King of the Mardi Gras” from the Nine Lives musical. The New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Papa Grows Funk and Galactic add a party-level amount of funk. Marcia Ball, the Radiators and Slim Harpo contribute love songs.
I play three songs by Davis Rogan, one from each of his albums, and then he calls in and we talk about his upcoming performance in Olympia, trade some stories about neighborhood schools, hear his idea for creating a Museum for Southern Racists and learn more about the connection between his music and his work on the HBO “Treme” show where he served as songwriter/technical consultant and the inspiration for one of the lead characters, D J Davis played by Steve Zahn. If you just want to hear Rogan’s music and interview instead of the whole show, here it is.
Occasionally, when someone learns about my New Orleans music show, they’ll ask me: “Have you seen. . .
And I know where they are going.
Yes! I have watched all 36 episodes of HBO’s Treme — some of them more than once including the commentary and music notes. The program is that good at portraying New Orleans.
The show ran from 2010 to 2013 and chronicled the lives of New Orleans residents upon their return to the city after Hurricane Katrina. And the show’s creators, producers and writers nailed it. The show is well regarded in New Orleans as having captured the unique and diverse culture and character of the city–both the good and the not so good.
Unfortunately, the show wasn’t sufficiently well regarded beyond the city (at least at the time) so no new episodes are being made. But if you’re reading this blog, you probably already understand the disconnect between being good and being popular. A theme that Treme also explores.
There’s lots of reasons to love this show, the main one for me is the music. There’s lot of New Orleans music in it. Literally hundreds of New Orleans-based musicians participated in its filming. Some of them even acted.
Yesterday, I pulled up the full cast listing of the show on IMDB and did a search for “self” and “selves” as in people and bands portraying themselves. I found over 250 listings. While some of the people playing themselves were politicians, chefs, writers, community activists and Mardi Gras Indian Chiefs, most of them were musicians.
Some are well known like Dr. John, Fats Domino, Trombone Shorty and Irma Thomas. Others are not but should be such as Aurora Nealand, John Boutte, Tom McDermott, and Kermit Ruffins.
Several of the fictional characters are musicians attempting to make a living. One is a journeyman trombonists, played by Wendell Pierce, struggling to find gigs so he can pay rent and child support. Two others busk on the street and are learning the New Orleans style of music.
Throughout the series, the viewer is treated to music venues such as Tipitina’s, House of Blues, Blue Nile, Spotted Cat, and Snug Harbor and the music you hear on the show is recorded in situ. What you see is truly what you hear
In many cases, the musicians simply perform, either in the background or as a part of the plot. In other cases though, they deliver lines from a script or, in the case of Dr. John, ad lib. It’s a wonderful blend of reality and fiction.
Cornell Williams, a bass player who in real life performs with Jon Cleary, portrays a member of a band formed by Wendell Pierce’s character and helps another character recover from drug addiction.
A more bizarre blending of real life and fiction is the character Davis McAlary, who often supplies the show’s comic relief and social commentary. McAlary is a musician and an on again, off again deejay at WWOZ, which is a real community radio station in New Orleans. His character was inspired by Davis Rogan who has released several albums of original songs and was a deejay for WWOZ. To really twist your brain, you will see in various Treme scenes the real Davis performing on piano backing up the fictional Davis. (Another character is patterned after Donald Harrison Jr. who is also seen regularly in the show.)
If you have a propensity to love New Orleans, its food, culture and music, watching Treme will deepen that love. If you know little about New Orleans but are interested, the show is a great place to start your education. Well, subscribing to this blog (upper right hand corner) and listening to my show won’t hurt either.
Last week, I did a summary of 2014 New Orleans releases. The list got so long, I needed a second round. I’m not organized enough to put them in any order so there’s no shame, as will be proven when you read below, in being included in this second installment.
By the way, this is music I play on Sweeney’s GumboYaYa. (And I’d be thankful if you subscribed – Upper Right Corner )
Tommy Malone – His third solo album since the Subdudes, Poor Boy, delivers 11 more smooth tunes with Malone’s unique blend of blues and folk. A talented guitarist and songwriter (he does only one cover), Malone has a voice that’s easy to make friends with.
Nicholas Payton – Numbers is what you make of it. You could call it chill music, but it’s far too engaging to allow your mind wander. I’ll get out of the way and repeat Payton’s description: “It’s a bed of sex wrapped in 500-thread count sonic sheets.” Get that?
Fo ‘Reel – Heavy Water bounced between our blues and soul shelf this year on the strength of Johnny Neel’s funky organ and C.P. Love’s vocals. The CD really takes off for me when bandleader Mark Domizio cuts loose with his guitar, particularly on Shake N Bake.
Dr. John – The Night Tripper left nothing to chance with this tribute to the immortal one, Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch. Terence Blanchard, James Andrews, Nicholas Payton (see above), and Wendell Brunious supply the chops with some welcome guest vocalists contributing a diverse array of interpretations of Louis Armstrong standards. You might not like every track but you won’t ask for your money back either.
The Roamin’ Jasmine – Another talented swing jazz band forged from the busking scene of New Orleans. In its self-titled album, this merry band of six musicians at times conjure up an exotic polyphonic sound, while staying true to the NOLA tradition of strong solos and swaggering vocals.
Davis Rogan – Davis Ex Machina is distinctly a New Orleans album–and not just because its performed with journeyman NOLA musicians. Mr. Rogan is no longer a school teacher struggling from performing at night and no longer the inspiration for a character of an HBO show. But he does continue to write songs that take you deeply into his hometown, while still connecting to timely broader messages. Case in point, “Big Treezy” appears to be a rant on the dilution of the”New Orleans” he loves yet ends as an allegory for immigration. Or maybe that’s just me reading too much between the lines. You tell me.
The Soul Rebels – No new CD this year BUT this kick-ass funk, R&B, hip-hop brass band has been offering a weekly track online for free throughout the fall, including three recorded this year–a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” (Week 5) , a mash up of its “Nothin But A Party”and Outkast’s “Spottieottiedopaliscious” (Week 6), and a never played again arrangement of Talib Kweli’s “I Try” (Week 7). Another reason not to want winter to begin.
Gal Holiday & The Honky Tonk Revue – Gal Holiday, the alter ego of singer Vanessa Niemann, fronts a genuine country dance hall band — part honky tonk, part redneck soul and solidly swing. They’re on my list to see live next time I’m in New Orleans, meanwhile I’ll keep enjoying Last to Leave, the band’s third CD.
Kelcy Mae – What do you call an album that wraps pop, country, and blues with solid arrangements, soulful lyrics and strong vocals? Before I started my New Orleans show, I was playing Half Light frequently on my open format morning show, without knowing she was a Louisiana native. crafting music from her home in New Orleans with the able assistance of Alex McMurray and Sam Cordts.
Benny Turner – Benny’s the real thing. He’s played guitar with his brother’s band, Freddy King and he was the band leader for Marva Wright for 20 years. With his third release, Journey, Turner plays and sings quintessential blues guaranteed to satisfy the music fan on your list.
Tuba Skinny – Owl Call Blues is a testament to this street band’s ability to find archival gems and make them fresh while also producing original music that sounds old-timey. They’ve toured the world but you can still catch them busking in the Quarter.
Gregory Good – Savage Lands offers original and traditional songs in a Woody Guthrie wanderlust style that places you at the campfire with Good singing and playing guitar as if he were still a roustabout in his home state North Dakota. Now in New Orleans, his new album joins Milo Records’ growing stable of Americana and traditional folk recordings.