I was in my 30’s when I finally understood that the deep depression I experienced every time I moved was related to having left New Orleans when I was a child. Hosting a radio show of New Orleans music has been cathartic. And today’s show marks five years on the air. (you can get the show started and then continue reading this post.)
Joe Lastie’s “New Orleans in Me” speaks to how when you live away from New Orleans (as happened with hundreds of thousands of residents post Hurricane Katrina) , the city stays with you. The song has always resonated for me and it opens this show as a way to honor why I’ve been doing this show for five years.
I was 10 when my family moved away and my heart stayed with the city, aided by frequent visits, until I moved out of the south after I graduated from college. The Northwest was such a good fit for me that over time, I lost touch with my New Orleans feelings — except that sense of loss that would return every time I moved into a new apartment or home.
By the time I returned to visit my sister who had moved back, it had been almost 30 years since I had visited New Orleans. I caught the New Orleans Nightcrawlers at the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which caused me to have almost a mystical experience. I just loved their sound and quickly learned that there was more to New Orleans music than Dixieland. The Nightcrawlers open the first full set of the show with “Can of Worms.”
I do a funk set with Mem Shannon, Allen Toussaint and Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. I make sure New Orleans Bounce is represented with the Queen of Bounce Big Freedia doing “Lift Dat Leg Up.”
I try to hint at the diversity of New Orleans music with original songs by Leyla McCalla, Anders Osborne, Kelcy Mae and Lena Prima. I throw in a fun set of Zydeco as well since that is music I would not have learned to love if I had not been doing this show. I hope you have a chance to listen to some of my shows and appreciate the uniquely melting pot American music that emanates from New Orleans
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To me, the Thanksgiving holiday is about being at home with loved ones. And so this show is about getting home and being home.
After Earl King sings about “Eating and Sleeping” (a succinct description of the typical Thanksgiving Day), I move on to this show’s theme with Seth Walker’s “Home Again.” I switch genre with a rock steady number by New Orleans reggae group 007 and finish the set with Clifton Chenier doing “I Am Coming Home.”
The Radiators do “The Long Hard Journey Home” and Lloyd Price asks for a another chance with “Let Me Come Home Baby.” Hoagy Carmichael’s early composition “My Home, New Orleans” gets a wonderful instrumental treatment by Al Hirt later in the show followed by Papa Grows Funk.
Before performing “Home”, Paul Sanchez introduces horn players Craig Klein and Shamarr Allen with a story of how these musicians helped him restore his home after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it. Stay with the show through to the end and you’ll hear Lena Prima’s song “Come On a My House” and Clarence Brown singing “On My Way Back Home.”
I hope the holidays find you in a place that you can call home. My best to you. Thanks for listening.
I can’t imagine the courage it takes to sit in front of a national audience and talk about a painful past trauma, nor can I imagine the determination required to break into a male-dominated pop culture field. Start my show and read on about the two women who subconsciously affected this week’s show.
No theme this week. I just selected some strong tracks and was getting them lined up on my Thursday morning show. But that was also the day that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford sat before a mostly male Senate panel and talked about a painful episode in her life that she still carries with her today. With the 24-hour news cycle bombarding me with the latest development, it was hard not to think about her and the courage such action takes.
Add that to my experience the night before where I had attended the premiere of the Joan Jett documentary, “Bad Reputation.” The story of Jett’s path as a female rocker was enlightening. It was because of her movie that I pulled from the KAOS blues shelf a neglected copy of Ghalia and Mama’s Boys to kick off the show. (Actually, I start with the Radiators but she’s the first one I introduce.)
And in the seething anger of the moment (I broadcast live on KAOS right after “Democracy Now” which on the day of my show reported on stories of women molested by men who got away with it), I picked the track “Hoodoo Evil Man”.
Singer/Songwriter/Rocker Ghalia is from Brussels but she recorded the song in New Orleans with Johnny Mastro and Mama’s Boys. That’s close enough for me. Also, in this week’s show, I play other female rockers including Danielle Nicole, who is from Kansas and was lead singer for Trampled by Turtles. Nicole did a release with Galactic drummer Stanton Moore and New Orleans blues-rocker Anders Osborne that included the song, “Didn’t Do You No Good.”
I didn’t set out to do a show focusing on women rockers and to be honest, this show is more spiced rather than infused with women performers. (About once a year, I do an exclusively female show. Here’s the last one.) But this show includes a new release by Kelcy Mae’s latest project, two tracks by Kara Grainger. Aurora Kneeland’s alter ego “Rory Danger and the Danger Dangers,” Gal Holiday, Albanie Falletta, the Original Pinettes, Rosie Ledet, and a rocking song by Irma Thomas.
I’ve been a bit giddy this week. The onset of our area’s first solid gesture of spring coinciding with the start of Jazz Fest in New Orleans and Olympia’s Arts Walk and Procession of the Species this weekend inspired this show which aired April 26, 2018 on KAOS. The show features very little jazz but a lot of New Orleans which is fitting at a time when Olympia holds its biggest street scene of the year.
To get ready for that walking, standing and processing, I start with some hip openers thanks to an opening number by The Meters followed by Shamarr Allen’s trumpet boogie of Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.” Art Neville comes back on with one of his Specialty Records classic rock and roll songs. Keith Stone keeps it rocking with the title track from his latest release The Prodigal Returns.
I mellow it out later in the set, with the help of Kelcy Mae singing an Earth Day appropriate song “Mr. Leopold.” Elvis Costello sings a great Allen Toussaint song, with the composer’s vocal and piano assistance. To honor Olympia’s unique cultural creation — the Procession of the Species, I played the Brassaholics “They Sew” – a song about New Orleans unique cultural creation the Black Indians of Mardi Gras. This song was two-fer cause it also honored Brassaholic’s trumpeter Tannon “Fish” Williams who celebrated his 43rd birthday that day.
I didn’t hear about the death of Charles Neville till the next morning so I’ll save his tribute for next week’s show. Please enjoy this one and consider subscribing so you can be alerted to when new shows are posted.
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.
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.
Are you ready to get in the holiday spirit New Orleans style? Here’s the edited radio archived show inspired by the season.
I’ve pulled together another collection of videos of NOLA musicians celebrating the season. Starting with Shamarr Allen and friends busting moves to “This Christmas.”
Spencer Bohren fronts an all-star New Orleans cast including his son Andre and Marc Paradis of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Camille Baudin and Reggie Scanlon of The Radiators and featuring the amazing saxophone of Aurora Nealand.
Hannukkah has passed and this isn’t necessarily a seasonal song but its a fascinating video of the New Orleans Klezmer All Star Band. Check out that violin.
Tom Day Wait and his group Pigpen is another excellent example of how many young excellent musicians shun Nashville for New Orleans to do real country. Here he is doing “I’m Trimming My Christmas Tree with Teardrops.”
When that country sound hits New Orleans swing, sometimes the music comes out like”Santa’s Going Back Home,” by Jenavieve Cook & the Royal St Winding Boys.
Kelcy Mae used to have to spend her holidays splitting time between her family and her partner. This poignant video and her elegant song celebrate how the legal and social acceptance of same sex marriages (and the relationships that build toward that commitment) make it easier to stay together during Christmas.
I’ll have some of these songs above and much more on Monday’s show. You all have a fine and relaxing holiday. Stay in touch by subscribing and tuning in.
This is my second year of offering holiday videos. Check out last year’s collection which features Kermit Ruffins, Bonerama, Aaron Neville, Luke Winslow-King, Benny Bunch, TBC Brass Band, Paul Sanchez, Funky Butt Brass Band, and Trombone Shorty.
The obvious struggle by Republican candidates in their most recent debate to think of an American woman deserving to be on the $10 bill once again illustrated the dearth of awareness of women’s role in our history.
This issue is brought home to me almost every time I map out music for my New Orleans show. Perhaps because my knowledge and music library is not as extensive as I would like, I struggle to bring gender balance to my shows, particularly when I play early jazz, R&B, funk and brass bands. But I also sense that New Orleans is no different than the broader music world where female musicians have struggled to get into the spotlight.
Finding music I can play that feature early New Orleans jazz women is pretty much impossible. I only have a little more luck when I move into the New Orleans R&B era. Lots of great music recorded out of J&M Recording Studio heyday, but with the huge exception of Irma Thomas, and also Shirley Goodman, its mostly guys.
If you don’t recognize some of those names, you’re not alone. Finding their music to play on the radio takes work.
Similarly you might recognize Marva Wright and Charmaine Neville but what about Leigh Harris (Little Queenie) or jazz singer Germaine Bazzle? Many excellent female musicians worked in New Orleans during the 20th Century but their recordings are sparse and scarce.
Fortunately, change is happening. While it still doesn’t feel balanced, there is an increasing number of New Orleans-based women musicians who are getting recognized in our new century. Helen Gillet, Aurora Nealand, Kelcy Mae, and Ingrid Lucia are carving a living out of the NOLA music landscape. Perhaps the most well-known in recent years is Alynda Lee Segarra who is the driving force behind Hurray for the Riff Raff.
And there’s growing recognition. New Orleans Women In Music, founded in 2007, promotes the careers of women musicians through information, network and other support.
The New Orleans Nightingales is a marketing collective with whom Ingrid Lucia has produced a compilation featuring 19 female musicians. Here’s the website description: “Steeped in the musical traditions of early American music, the ladies of the New Orleans Nightingales bring new life to this hundred year art form through new compositions, vibrant live performances and a commitment to the idea that traditional jazz and folk music is still evolving.”
It’s not hard catching live music in New Orleans. Musicians in NOLA are like Olympia baristas, they’re just about everywhere and they’re really good at what they do.
One memorable experience during my visit last month was watching Kelcy Mae perform in an incredibly artful, yet defunct, cafe located in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans. The cool thing is that you too could catch a performance of a talented young artist there.
The event is described as “modern-day speakeasy” and when I first arrived at the renovated building on Oretha Castle Boulevard (about a mile walk from Canal Street), my first sense was that I had gotten the wrong address.
The building is owned and was painstakingly redone by Elizabeth and Gary Eckman who incorporated original artwork and craftsmanship into their renovation of the century-old building, creating a modern space while retaining the grandeur of the past.
The building doesn’t look like your typical New Orleans music venue. Yet on Tuesdays, the space transforms into the Milo Music Parlor — the brainchild of Kim Vu-Dinh, a self-described music nerd who also runs Milo Records. Because of Kim’s good sense to keep KAOS on her distribution list, I’ve featured the excellent new music promoted by Milo Records on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa.
Each week, Milo’s Music Parlor hosts a different musician or band who performs in this intimate space that feels like a large living room. The additional twist is that about halfway through the performance, the musicians take a break and Kim interviews them for a podcast featured on It’s New Orleans— “web radio for locals, exiles, and lovers of New Orleans everywhere.”
Originally from California with a significant detour through Alaska, Ms. Vu-Dinh is an attorney who has clearly found her passion and home in the New Orleans music scene. In introducing Gal Holiday, she insightfully touches on the melting pot music milieu of New Orleans.
“To some it may seem unlikely that this classic honky tonk band called New Orleans home. To others, who’ve heard them, it may come as no surprise that they flourish in a town where tradition in every genre is paid respect with high caliber musicianship.”
As I’ve tried to demonstrate on my show, New Orleans music does not fit tidily into one or two music genres. It’s not just jazz, or Dixieland, or Iko Iko. Each generation, each neighborhood, seems to contribute a new energy and style that somehow absorbs nicely into the city’s traditions, rhythms and dialect.
In a city that is attracting more than its share of Millennials, uber-talented young musicians continue to make their mark on New Orleans. And you can witness it happening at Milo Music Parlor. The programs are open to the public for an affordable cover charge and the show ends with plenty of time to catch music elsewhere. Check the schedule here.
Next week, the Music Parlor will host Aurora Nealand who will perform her avant garde solo project Monocle and later in the month David Doucet and Al Tharp of Beausoleil will be at the Parlor.
Consider subscribing to my blog (see upper right corner of page) and catching my shows of New Orleans music on KAOS or the edited versions on Mixcloud
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.