Day of the Dead Takes On Greater Significance

Partly because I’m at the age where I know more people who are dead and partly because the pandemic is helping to increase that number for all of us, the Day of the Dead holds more meaning now. While the playlist for this show is similar to past Day of the Dead (Halloween) shows, the vibe (my vibe) has definitely changed.

The show kicks off with a riff on “St. James Infirmary” by Wendell Pierce playing the character of Antoine Batiste in the HBO series Treme. Batiste is waiting in the Touro Emergency Room when he does his impromptu singing, accompanied by an anonymous slap beat on a tin waste can.

Day of the Dead

What follows is music about death including a Preservation Hall Jazz Band version of “St. James Infirmary,” King Oliver’s “Dead Man Blues,” Treme Brass Band’s “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead,” Dirty Bourbon River Show’s “All My Friends are Dead” and Spencer Bohren’s “Ghost Train.”

That theme rolls into the next set with Shotgun Jazz Band’s “White Ghost Shivers” and a fascinating song called “Seven Skeletons Found in the Yard.”

After the first hour, its voodoo time with the help of The Neville Brothers, Spider Murphy, Charles Sheffield, Sunpie Barnes, and Benny Turner.

If you make it that far, you’ll hear my annual send up of Morgus the Magnificent — the original New Orleans fright show host that spawned a movie and a regional hit by Mac Rebennack, Jerry Byrne and Frankie Ford from 1059. This year, you’ll also hear the Creole String Beans cover of the same song. Here’s an earlier post with a lot more detail on Morgus, his show and the song.

I finish with a few spirituals including the most recognized one, “Saints,” by the Zion Harmonizers. My best to you and love to all those who are remembering a lost one.

“You’re my good for nothin’ sweet hunk o’trash.”

One of the highlights of Dr. John’s send-up record of Louis Armstrong is his duet with Shemekia Copeland “Sweet Hunk o’Trash.” The song caps the opening four-song set that also features piano players Amasa Miller, Jon Cleary, and Henry Butler.

When you start the player above, Walter “Wolfman” Washington will kick it off with “The Big Easy” — a showcase of his guitar and malleable voice, backed up by a solid horn section — making it clear you’re about to listen to two hours of New Orleans music.

Cover of Charmaine Neville Band’s It’s About Time

Charmaine Neville kicks off the first set with “Can You Tell Me” a sweet, sultry number co-written with her percussionist Gregory Boyd doing a steel pan solo. Helping out are Amasa Miller on piano, and Reggie Houston on saxophone and I think the whole band chimes in on the chorus. Henry Butler percusses his way into that song’s closing vibe with his rhythmic “Henry’s Boogie.” Jon Cleary slows the tempo down a bit while still staying funky with “Oh No No No” and then Shemekia and Dr. John cover Hunk o’Trash . They make it uniquely theirs but in case you were curious about the Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday version, here it is.

Free Spirit Brass Band ramp it back up in the second full set with “Red Dress.” The unique project by New Orleans producers Steve Reynolds and Scott Billington of remixing Alan Lomax field recordings with studio musicians and rhythms follows.

Frustrated by the Congressional deadlock? Perhaps you’ll dig Smoky Greenwell’s latest single “Filibuster Blues.” With songs like “Progressives Unite” and “Get Out and Vote,” Smoky has been putting his politics where his sax and harmonica is — well except he still plays those, and sings. If you don’t want to here it on my show, try it on Soundcloud.

Rebirth Brass Band, which is performing in the Northwest this weekend, do “Who’s Rockin’, Who’s Rollin’?” followed by The Radiators “Long Hard Journey Home” (the version recorded for the Treme TV Show).

Also on the show: Danny Barker, Albanie Falletta, Dirty Bourbon River Show, Sarah Quintana, Dash Rip Rock, David Egan and the Olympia Brass Band. Thanks for tuning in.

A COVID Hatchet Not So Deep in our Heads

If the line “There is a hatchet not so deep in my head” from Dr. John’s “Holdin’ Pattern” speaks to you, then this is your show. The persistence of COVID-19 feels like a holding pattern which is a problem for all those whose livelihoods depend on our ability to gather –such as brass band musicians. I’ll tell you about the show and more once you get it started. (click sideways arrow in box below and it will play while you continue to read.)

The uptick in COVID-19 infections and its impact on our health care system has slowed down the possibility of having live shows and congregating. I’m not an advocate of rushing this process but I do worry what impact it will have on our culture — particularly the unique New Orleans brass band culture.

The New Orleans Brass Band Musicians Relief Fund is currently crowdsourcing funding through GoFundMe and seeking larger donations to provide emergency cash grants to musicians. The relief fund was started by the Save Our Brass Culture Foundation, a nonprofit advocating for the city’s brass band musicians, with Seth Bailin, a saxophonist who plays with New Orleans brass bands, and Joanna Farley, who used to work in disaster response.

From the Save Our Brass Culture Foundation website

You’ll hear me make a plug for this foundation in the second hour as I play a long set of brass band music that includes the following: Lazy Boyz Brass Band with “Come and Dance,” The Hot 8 Brass Band with “War Time,” The To Be Continued Brass Band with “Numba2 (We Dem Folks)” edited for radio, The Original Pinettes Brass Band with “We Got Music,” The Soul Rebels with Trombone Shorty with “Sabor Latino,” Treme Brass Band with “Tuba Fats,” Rebirth Brass Band with “Dilemma,” and the Forgotten Souls Brass Band with “The Second Half.” It’s about 45 minutes of brass music.

Before that you’ll hear a set of blues and some jazz and I finish with three very unique songs by Elizabeth Joan Kelly, Helen Gillet and Aurora Nealand operating under the name The Monocle.

I do a show every week. Please consider subscribing.

Henry Gray’s life spans the history of Chicago Blues

This week’s show provides a brief glimpse into the days of early rock n’ roll recording and honors one of the key architects of the Chicago blues sound. And that’s just the first hour. You got some listening to do. Turn it on before you read on!

The life of Henry Gray, who died last week at 95, spans the history of urban Chicago blues as African Americans migrated from the south to escape racism and poverty following the end of World War 2. And like the previous migration following World War 1, music came with them. Except instead of jazz, it was the blues led by Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf and Chess records. In the middle all this was a rural Louisiana piano player who help define Chicago blues.

But that was after the war when he had served in the South Pacific. Before, in a small town outside Baton Rouge called Alsen, Gray played the usual songbook expected of a Baptist family. But somehow, he was encouraged to other styles of play and by the time he was 16, he was entertaining audiences in local clubs. A habit that stayed with him throughout his life. Returning back to Louisiana to care for his mom and the family business, he was an annual favorite at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. His last appearance was 2018.

This show also celebrates the birth anniversaries of Roy Montrell and Clarence Garlow. Montrell played guitar in the Fats Domino touring band for 17 years, taught Mac Rebennak (Dr. John) how to play the guitar and co-wrote and sang “(Everytime I hear) That Mellow Saxophone.”Garlow is known for “Bon Ton Roulay” and having played with Clifton Chenier in the early years of Zydeco. Both were in the Cosimo Matassa studio in the 50’s recording early rock n’ roll songs such as “Heebie Jeebies.”

What else can I tell you about this show? There’s a four-song set on fishing and two songs by Helen Gillet who will be performing in Olympia next week. And much more. Just keep listening and consider subscribing. Cheers.

Strange weather with Django & Guilded Splinters

This week’s show starts off with a Django Reinhardt inspired song but then takes a deep dive into some dark covers of songs by Marianne Faithfull, the Kinks and Dr. John.

Zazou City starts the show with “Django in the Jungle” followed by “Midnight Blues” by Tuba Skinny. Then Antoine Diel and his powerful voice takes over with “Strange Weather” — the song written by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan for Marianne Faithfull and inspired by Faithfull’s struggle with drug rehab and a relationship that ended with her partner committing suicide.

The songs get a bit more upbeat after that . . . at least for a while But then Sabertooth Swing does a version of “Alcohol” by The Kinks. “Sad memories I cannot recall. Who thought I would fall a slave to demon alcohol.”

You’ll hear a rarely played song by Frankie Lowery “I Ain’t Had No Sleep” followed by Chuck Carbo’s swinging but somewhat depressing “Average Kind of Guy.” We dip into Crescent Gold (Allen Toussaint’s R&B dream team recording) for “Junco Partner.” By the time the show cleared the hour mark, it just seemed natural to play Dee-1’s reggae-inflected “Fighting Thru Depression.” Don’t worry. It’s a positive song.

If you can make it that far, stick around for the 12 and half minute version of Dr. John’s legendary “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” featuring Jello Biafra and a smartly recruited group of New Orleans rockers. No deep message here. Just fun.

As for the show, its not nearly as depressing as my description sounds. I hope you enjoy the show. Please subscribe.

Honoring Day of the Dead amidst KAOS pledge drive

My show did two laps on the KAOS Fall Pledge Drive so I skipped posting up last week’s show but trimmed this one down to the usual chatter and the music. Get it started an read on.

This show features my usual seasonal favorites by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown (Swamp Ghost) and “Morgus the Magnificent” by Dr. John, Frankie Ford and Jerry Byrne. But I also honor those who passed to the other side tis year, including Dr. John, Spencer Bohren, Paul “Lil Buck” Sinegal, Art Neville and Dave Bartholomew. (links are to tribute shows aired earlier in the year when they died).

You’ll also hear Juli Kelen’s voice helping me on this show. Juli’s youthful voice and energy belie the fact she has been actively involved in KAOS from almost the beginning in the 70’s. You can support free-form community radio by donating online at http://www.kaosradio.org. Thank you for tuning in.

Mac (Dr. John) and Spencer Bohren tributes highlight show

New Orleans lost two well-regarded musical artists in early June. One you know about and one you should know about. Get the show started to hear what they have to offer

Mac Rebennak’s death on June 6 at age 77 garnered international headlines. The Jesuit High School dropout was a regular presence at the J&M Studios during its heyday and later joined the secret “Wrecking Crew” of studio fame. While he rocketed to fame with his Dr. John the day tripper persona in the late 60’s and early 70’s, it was his commitment to the New Orleans funk, R&B and groove that endeared him to his hometown.

Today’s show features his singing as well as his ability on guitar and piano. The show kicks off with him singing a Davell Crawford number, with the younger songwriter playing piano. Then we go to one of the first songs he wrote, performed by Jerry Byrne, “Light’s Out.” From there, you will hear “Storm Warning” an instrumental that shows off his guitar licks (before he lost a part of finger (fret hand) to a gunshot.

Other sets includes Dr. John singing and/or playing piano with Irma Thomas, Sonny Landreth, and Tab Benoit. In all, its close to a full hour of his music.

Spencer Bohren from crowd-funding website designed to help pay for his cancer treatment.

Then we turn to Spencer Bohren, a singer-songwriter who was born in Wyoming with ties to the Northwest but moved to New Orleans as a young man with his wife in the 70’s. He gained fame throughout the city and in Europe but is not nearly as well known as Mac Rebennak. Bohren died two days after Dr. John and left a strong library of solo performances as well as collaborative efforts. You’ll hear three of his solo songs, two songs he wrote for “The Write Brothers” and a rousing performance in the rockabilly group he was part of “Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers.”

The show offers some previews of performances coming to the northwest with songs by the Soul Rebels, Chubby Carrier and Trombone Shorty. I finish the show with Dr. John’s performance with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band “It’s All Over Now.”

I hope you enjoy and please subscribe.

Celebrating Four Years of Gumbo YaYa

I love birthdays and so it was no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed myself on today’s Anniversary show. I hope you enjoy listening to it. (Go ahead and click the arrow right below and get it started)

birthday-cake-four-candles-mdMarcia Ball’s “The Party’s Still Going On,” which kicked off the show, totally fit my mood. In September of 2014 when the first Gumbo YaYa was recorded, I  was a little nervous about how long I’d be able to sustain a show, aired in the Pacific Northwest, of strictly New Orleans music. After all, the KAOS air studio is more than 2,720 miles from Frenchmen Street).

But with the help and kindness of New Orleans musicians, music distributors and labels ike Basin Street Records, I’ve been getting some current music.   I’m surprised how much variety the New Orleans format offers.  And what particularly amazes me is how much I’ve learned in the last four years.  (Several trips to New Orleans have helped — I like this hobby!).

On my bucket list for my next New Orleans visit is catching Lena Prima and her talented band in the Carousel Room of the Monteleone Hotel. Yes, its a total tourist thing but damn she does a great job, backed up by her band led by husband and bass player Tim Fahey.  Early in today’s show, she pulls off a bit of a medley that starts as you might expect, then gets you and your body moving (guaranteed) by the end.

Got a phone call from a listener when I played The Wild Magnolia’s “Coochie Molly” a rocking song (thank you June Yamagishi on guitar) that dovetailed nicely in to the next track, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers live version of “Tchfuncta/On that Day.”  That set finishes with Galactic’s “Wild Man” with chanting by Big Chief Bo Dollis. In fact, all three songs in that set feature chanting by Mardi Gras Indian Big Chiefs.

Another Big Chief performs later in the show but only on the saxophone — Donald Harrison Jr. backs up Davell Crawford in “River/White Socks & Drawers.” When he’s not playing jazz saxophone, Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr. is working on his next Mardi Gras suit. Oh, and before I forget, Dr. John and Big Freedia do some vocals on that Crawford song.

The show also features an in-studio performance (recorded earlier this summer) of “”Kibi” by Helen Gillet.  I have other surprises, including a 12-minute live version of the oft-covered “Big Chief.” Thanks so much for putting up with these posts and shows for four years. As long as you don’t complain to management, I’m committed to ensuring that “The Party’s Still Going On,”

You Can Fill Your Bucket with New Orleans Music

This post doesn’t have a hole in it but your bucket might. This week’s show has a few stories to it, including one about the first record where you hear Louis Armstrong’s voice, a bloody New Orleans nightclub that gets renamed in song and the birthday of a first rate R&B star whose career was disrupted by the draft and served in Korea.  Start the show (Earl King kicks it off) and then keep reading.

Last weekend during a Northwest sun break, the song “That Bucket Has a Hole In It” came to mind while tossing weeds in the five-gallon buckets we use to garden. Unable to shake the tune, I rolled with it and assembled a two-set program of “bucket” songs for today’s show.

Louis-Armstrong-early-2
Louis Armstrong was 25 when he recorded Gut Bucket Blues

The set starts with “Gut Bucket Blues” — the third song recorded by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five but the first to be released and the first to showcase his exuberant stage presence. As Ricky Riccardi eloquently explains in his blog post, the song “contains the first ever glimpse of Louis Armstrong’s personality, in all its glory.”

Recorded in Chicago in 1925, this Hot Five recording includes three other New Orleans expats (Kid Ory on trombone, Johnny Dodds on clarinet an Johnny St. Cyr on banjo) and the future Mrs. Armstrong (Lil Harden) on piano.  As each band member takes a solo, Armstrong yells out encouragement.  By the time he recorded Gut Bucket Blues, Armstrong was a veteran performer on stage and in the studio, having recorded with bandleaders Joe Oliver and Fletcher Henderson.  But with this Hot Five recording, Louis Armstrong steps out for the first time, demonstrating the style he would take to an international level. There’s more fun details about this song and how it was recorded so I’ll give another plug to author Riccardi’s entertaining blog: The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong.

I round out the set with Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s “The Bucket’s Got a Hole In It” and Eddie Bo’s catchy “Check Your Bucket” which while very different from the Prez Hall’s song is certainly connected by lyrics.

littlefred
Mixed Bucket of Blood is a bonus track on this album of Little Freddie King;

The second set starts with a gory story involving an early Little Freddie King gig that went horribly wrong. As he explains in this YouTube video, he got a gig at a nightclub for the weekend. And every night, an incident occurred that resulted in someone losing a lot of blood.  At one point, he described taking cover from gunfire behind a juke box.  He memorialized the experience in his song “Mixed Bucket of Blood.”  The song is followed by Dr. John’s very different take of “Gut Bucket Blues” and the Hot 8 Brass Band’s “Bottom of the Bucket.”

Later in the show I do a long set of drinking songs that in song title form reads like this:  Liquor Pang, Drinking Days, Drunk Too Much, Still Drunk, Drink a Little Poison 4 U Die.

Finally, I close with a rousing tribute to Lloyd Price who had five hit R&B songs in the early 50’s before getting drafted into the Army and had to serve in Korea.  I tell more of this story in my Veteran’s Day post. I play one of his hits he cut after returning from the military (“Stagger Lee”) along with “Rock N’ Roll Dance”  and “Come Into My Heart.”

Thanks for listening.

New Orleans vocalists have great back up

Click the arrow in the box to this week’s edited show started and then read about what you will hear

New Orleans vocalists have such a deep musician’s bench to pull from for their recordings that its no surprise they’re great to listen to.  But there’s no question who the star is in the songs I played today. . .starting with “Sweet Home New Orleans” by Dr. John. It’s the voice!

Alexandra Scott follows with her haunting “Something Altogether New.” I played a rare major label song with Harry Connick Jr. doingdownload “Wish I Were Him” and Antoine Diel does a duet with Arsene Delay singing “Bless You (For the Good That is in You).

Later sets include Marva Wright, Linnzi Zaorski, Lena Prima, Aaron Neville, Johnny Adams, Percy Mayfield, Ingrid Lucia, and Debbie Davis.  Sarah Quintana, Miss Sophie Lee and Theryl Declouet (Houseman) keep the focus on the voice. Though in every case, there is excellent support.

I realize I could easily do another show of vocalists without repeating. Afterall, this show does not include Irma Thomas, Ernie K-Doe, Fats Domino, John Boutte to name a few.  Instead, I finish twith a tribute to my alma mater, a trio of songs on Georgia to honor the University of Georgia marching band getting to perform in the Rose Bowl and now the NCAA championship. Go dawgs!