Katrina 13 year anniversary – What the hell!

Thirteen years since Hurricane Katrina destroyed the lives of over a thousand New Orleans residents, scattering survivors throughout the country.  And yet, based on our abysmal response to the damage wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, we’ve learned little.  Get this year’s annual Katrina recognition dedicated to Puerto Rico started.

katrina3Shamarr Allen creates the intensity of a hurricane with the opening track of this show “Katrina and the Flood.”  It’s become almost a tradition to play that song as well as Marva Wright’s heart-wrenching “The Levee is Breaking Down” which comes off her post-Katrina album, After the Levees Broke.

This year’s show features the KAOS premiere of “You and Me” a song written to dramatize the story of Tim Bruneau, a New Orleans police officer who was working when the levees broke. Bruneau found the body of 23-year-old Marie Latino after the hurricane had passed but before the city had started to flood.  After several attempts to have the body picked up, he put her in the back seat of his car.  But after failing to find a  hospital to take the body, he was ordered to “undo” what he did.  He placed Latino’s body in a body bag and returned it to where he found, where it floated on flood waters until it was picked up a few days later.  The song is poignant and haunting.  An autopsy later revealed that she had been shot instead of killed by the storm as originally believed.

Sonny Landreth song “Blue Tarp Blues” references President George Bush’s famous looking out from Air Force One and Marcia Ball sings Randy Newman’s ode to the 1927 Louisiana flood. I finish the show with Dee-1 and Shamarr Allen singing about the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico titled “Sorry Ain’t Enough No More.”

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!

A dozen years after Katrina

The 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans has been marked by deadly flood waters around the planet–from Houston to Bangladesh. Today’s show, originally aired on KAOS and presented in edited form below, is dedicated to all flood victims.  As weather intensifies in the future, we all run the risk of being weather victims.

This week’s show starts with wetland preservation advocate Tab Benoit, singing “Shelter Me.”  Clarence “Gatemouth” “Brown follows with his seminal song “Hurricane.”  Mr. Brown died of cancer on September 10, 2005 after having to evacuate his Katrina-damaged home in Slidell (near New Orleans) two weeks earlier. Marva Wright re-enacts the ground level experience in New Orleans during the flooding in “The Levee Is Breaking Down” and the Free Agents Brass Band perform their song of survival “We Made It Through the Water.” Here’s the complete playlist.

Here’s where I archive all my recorded shows. 

More women are taking the music stage in New Orleans

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.

Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, was a pioneer in a male-dominated New Orleans R&B scene.
Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, was a pioneer in a male-dominated New Orleans R&B scene.

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.

With the help of Jeff Hannusch’s book “The Soul of New Orleans – A Legacy of Rhythm and Blues,” I have learned about Jean Knight (Mr. Big Stuff), Martha Carter,  Mathilda Jones, and Barbara George.  And, of course, the Dixie Cups.

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.

Debbie Davis is a member of the New Orleans Nightingale collective which has help put a spotlight on New Orleans female musicians.
Debbie Davis is a member of the New Orleans Nightingale collective which has help put a spotlight on New Orleans female musicians.

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.”

I’m going to tip the gender balance scale of my next radio show, leaning heavily on the double X chromosome for my tunes.   Here’s the edited version of the show on Mixcloud.