Gumbo YaYa 2018 – Top 10 CDs of the Year

My list of top ten releases from New Orleans is based on my experience as the host of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa, a Northwest community radio show that features New Orleans and other Louisiana music. To see a larger list of releases, check out my 2018 summary. This show features two tracks from each of the top 10 releases.

Bon Bon VivantLive At The New Orleans Jazz Museum –  This original group features sweet sister harmonies, a genre-bending style and a clear affection for New Orleans history performed before the perfect live audience.  This is a group to watch and you can, very easily because they perform live in New Orleans regularly.

Riverside Jazz Collective: Stomp Off, Let’s Go – Recorded at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music by New Orleans pros who can  be heard regularly around town, particularly at The Bombay Club. This album features gently time-worn “songs that are melodically and emotionally durable.”  

Ivan Neville and Cris JacobsNeville Jacobs – A magic combination formed from a post-Jazz Fest card game where New Orleans funk and soul meets Baltimore rock and blues.  The chemistry is so solid, I listen to this CD with the hope that there will be a second one.

Cha WaSpyboy – Waiting for the next generation to pick up the mantle for The Wild Magnolias (except with a strong brass sound ) Look no further then this second release of this millennial group that has the fire!  Grammy nominated too.  “Get On Out Of the Way” 

Michot’s Melody Makers: Blood Moon – Lost Bayou Ramblers’ co-founder Louis Michot stretches the boundaries of Cajun music to his heart and my ears content with this project. I get calls from listeners wanting to know more when I play from this CD — and for good reason.

Helen GilletHelkiase– On the surface, Gillet and her music may seem far afield of what you might expect out of New Orleans. But this French and English singing cellist has been embedded in the city for most of her professional life. Her latest project can be edgy, melodic, soothing and tense.  Check out her KAOS studio performance  and interview from this summer

Jon Batiste:  Hollywood Africans – He may be world famous as the late night show bandleader but Batiste is more importantly a world-class musician with some powerful music to share, In this very personal release, he offers up originals with a fresh look at a couple standards. His reverent timing invites the listener to slow down and listen “with all you got, . . .don’t stop.”

Gal HolidayLost & Found – After 14 years in the vanguard of the New Orleans country music scene, Gal Holiday — aka Vanessa Neuman — and her Honky-Tonk Revue know how to deliver authentic old-time Patsy Cline style country. And while her band is solid, Vanessa’s voice is the star of the show.

Jonathon LongJonathon Long –  His third release is the charm. He dropped the “Boogie” from his name and added a lot of himself in his singing and songwriting. This self-titled album produced by Samantha Fish and featuring muscular guitar work and soulful, personal lyrics represents a new addition to Southern Rock.

Jon ClearyDyna-Mite – If you’ve been waiting for Cleary’s full band follow up to his 2016 Grammy win, wait no more!  With two more songs and a wider range (including a reggae-inflected song), Dyna-Mite blows away his Grammy-worthy earlier release.

I also play a track from Ever More Nest — Kelcy Mae’s latest project which was a close contender for being part of the top 10 list.

Plenty of music for one all-women show but still an imbalance

This week’s show features exclusively female musicians, vocalists and bandleaders. You can start the show now and finish reading while you listen.

Female-focused shows have gotten easier since my first one in 2015  but there’s still a serious imbalance particularly when looking for horn players.

original-pinettes-brass-band-elsa-hahne
The cover photo of The Original Pinettes Brass Band CD – “Finally”

The Original Pinettes Brass Band, as best as I can tell, is still the only female brass band.  And its rare to see a female musician in any of the male-dominated brass bands.

Where the balance tips the other way is in the area of vocalists.  Debbie Davis, Ingrid Lucia, Linnzi Zaorski, Charmaine Neville, Lena Prima and Meschiya Lake are featured in this latest show.   I also plays songs with the amazing musicianship (and vocals) of Aurora Nealand (clarinet and saxophone) and Helen Gillet (cello) as well as singer songwriters Kelcy Mae and Gina Forsyth.

This show I was able to add a funk song thanks to picking up Erica Falls album and zydeco with the almost all-female band Bonsoir, Catin.  I reckon these shows are getting easier to do because my library of female-generated music is getting deeper as opposed to any seismic-level gender shift. I may have a taller stack of applicable CDs now but it still pales when placed next to the pile of other NOLA music I have.

In which case, it seems appropriate to continue in the future doing special shows where I feature exclusively women.  Why not keep the thumb on the scale until it doesn’t matter anymore.  And anyway,  I didn’t do justice to a great many other female artists who did not get played today.  I’ll do another female exclusive show soon and meanwhile they all go back into my rotation for my other shows.

Here’s the playlist.  If you got ideas for me, let me know.

2014 New Orleans Music Buyer’s Guide – Part 2

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 )

You'll want to Linger Til Dawn with Debbie Davis' latest CD
You’ll want to Linger Til Dawn with Debbie Davis’ latest CD

Debbie Davis and the MesmerizersLinger Til Dawn showcases a voice that ranges from Broadway to Bawdy.. Her second CD offers a satisfying selection of songs backed up by accomplished musicians- Joshua Paxton on piano, Alex McMurray on guitar and Bonerama member Matt Perrine on sousaphone. Their interpretation of The Kink’s “Sunny Afternoon” is inspired.

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 puts its all out there in his latest. His love, frustrations and of course his view of the world.
Davis Rogan puts its all out there in his latest. His love, frustrations and of course his view of the world.

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 Tuner delivers a solid blues and soul collection with his latest release, Journey.
Benny Tuner delivers a solid blues and soul collection with his latest release, Journey.

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 GoodSavage 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.

The Best of Eric Lindell” will only be available digitally starting December 16. “Live in Space.”

Even with this sequel, I’m far from covering everyone. For a more complete list, here’s Offbeat Magazine listing of 2014 releases by Louisiana artists.

I’ll be playing from this list and last week’s list on the next Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa, Monday, December 15. Also, I’d appreciate if you subscribed to this blog (see upper right column).