You’ll hear some damn good singing on this week’s show- most likely related to the all-female cast of the show.
Just as she did last year, Ingrid Lucia kicks off this show of women vocalists and bandleaders– this time by leading us on a “Bourbon Street Parade” from her 2010 Live from New Orleans record.
Meschiya Lake follows with her invocation “I Believe in Music” from 2013’s Fooler’s Gold. Lynn Drury then takes us straight to the heart and heartache of New Orleans’ live music scene with “Frenchmen Street” from Sugar on the Floor. Dana Abbott anchors the first full set with “You’re Mine.” By that time, resistance is futile.
The second set will get heels a flying with Doreen Ketchens, Albanie Falletta and Marla Dixon’s Shotgun Jazz Band. The exercise will be good for you for the following set will definitely give you pause.
The set begins with a funeral march that seems to get more optimistic as it progresses until Aurora Nealand’s intones “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” The beat and swing builds up to a great drum solo. The song is “Flee as a Bird” — a hymn with the song credit given to Mary Dana — a song catcher who worked South Carolina church scene in the mid-19th century. Bon Bon Vivant’s poet laureate, songwriter and front lady Abigail Cosio takes it from there with “Old Forgotten Tune.” While her band can rock you, this song is just her guitar and voice singing a story of loss and how music and memories entwine. The song was inspired by a cowboy poet line she read in the library at the Will Roger’s Historic Park. This set ends with “Harm”– the first track from Elizabeth Joan Kelly’s new release Farewell, Doomed Planet! which “is about the apocalypse. And Chernobyl wolves. Pollution. And space travel. Existential dread. And whales. ”
A Lafayette-style set follows with Yvette Landry, Bonsoir Catin and Sweet Cecilia with a well-placed serving of Gal Holiday. Later you’ll hear Linnzi Zaorski’s take of the Andrew Sisters hit “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen” — a song from a 1930’s Yiddish musical that was also oddly a hit in Nazi Germany until authorities got wind of its Jewish provenance.
Leyla McCalla, Debbie Davis, Carol Fran, Tank and the Bangas and the Original Pinettes Brass Band (New Orleans only all-female brass band) take a turn. Margie Perez, Little Queenie and Shawn Williams bat clean up.
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The concept for today’s show originates from our need at KAOS to periodically record the composer when we put up our play list on Spinitron. This got me thinking a bit more about how musicians are compensated for the airing of their music. Start the show and then read on.
As I understand it, the broadcast of music over a terrestrial radio station generates income for the composer but not for the performer. However, the streaming of the song on the Internet possibly generates revenue for both the performer and composer. I write “possibly” because there are a lot of “if’s” which I don’t have the brain bandwidth to understand. Also, the amount of money per spin is a small fraction of a penny.
The relevant piece of information here is that because BMI does a spot check on what we play, requiring us to list the composer, I decided to do a show that featured exclusively NOLA musicians playing their own compositions. I added an additional requirement that the musician be active — or at least still alive.
So here is what you’ll hear: Paula (Rangell) and the Pontiacs performing her original song . The prolific Alex Murray performing one of his originals. Flow Tribe doing their unique “Oh Yea.” Tin Men performing an original by band member Washboard Chaz Leary. Meschiya Lake performing a song by her sousaphone player Jason Jurzek. And on it goes. We cover jazz, blues, rock, and stuff in between.
The one exception to my self-imposed active musician rule is Leigh Harris’ wonderful “Dog Days.” Harris, known as Lil Queenie, is struggling with cancer. Here’s here fundraising site for her hospice care. All the rest of the performers heard on this show can be seen live usually playing around the New Orleans area.
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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 play 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.
Here’s this year’s survey of New Orleans music releases that deserve your attention. This is music I played on my radio show Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa. (By the way, so many release, here’s Part Two )
Eric Lindell – When I listen to Matters of the Heart, I imagine an artist on a serious Zoloft high. When I first started playing this CD on KAOS, it seemed liked every track bubbled over with happy feelings and love. But there’s deep stuff as well on this release that harken back to Lindell’s blues days. This is a strong release that just makes me wish even more he would break out of his habit of only touring sunny places and get his happy butt up to the Northwest.
Honey Island Swamp Band – When Hurricane Katrina stirred a serious dose of New Orleans talent into our national musical melting pot, four New Orleans musicians found themselves in San Francisco and formed this band. Demolition Dayis its second full-length album and the first recorded in New Orleans — under the direction of North Mississippi All-Stars Luther Dickinson, who also co-produced Lindell’s release. The CD captures the essence of the band’s jam band live personae while delivering tight singular songs that define the band’s self-described genre “Bayou Americana.”
John “Papa” Gros – After over a dozen years fronting Papa Grows Funk, which anchored the Monday slot at the famed Maple Leaf Bar, this standout keyboardist has produced a solo release that reflects the wide range of his talent and interests. River’s on Fire has it all: rock, funk, reggae, a love song, and a serious nod to mentor and New Orleans saint, Allen Toussaint. I hope new releases become an annual Papa ritual.
Benny Turner – With his fourth release, this veteran bluesman takes us back with a set of previously recorded but hard to find funky, blues numbers, including a duet with Marva Wright, the powerhouse New Orleans blues and gospel singer who died in 2010. Turner played bass and managed Ms. Wright’s band for 20 years. What a treat it is to hear her voice again on “Pity on this Lovesick Fool.” The CD’s title track “When She’s Gone” is about another important woman in Turner’s life, his mother
Dee-1– As a card-carrying AARP member, I’m not qualified to review rap. But David Augustine Jr., who performs under the name Dee-1, doesn’t care because this inclusive artist erects a big enough tent for us all to be in and listen to his stories. Originally attracted by the humor he expresses in paying off his student loan (Sallie Mae Back) and his love for his aging but paid for car (NO Car Note), I find myself drawn to the many other fine tracks on his 2016 mixtape Slingshot David– released on the heels of the Alton Sterling shooting in Baton Rouge this summer.
Leyla McCalla – Singing in Haitian Creole, French and English and accompanied by her own haunting cello playing, Leyla McCalla digs deep into the roots tying Haiti and New Orleans together. A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey is an exploration of the oppressed and the oppressor and an excellent follow up to her previous release where she put music to the words of Langston Hughes.
The Roamin’ Jasmin –Taylor Smith, leader and bass player of The Roamin’ Jasmine, once again demonstrates with his band’s second release his genius at fresh, upbeat arrangements of obscure blues, jazz, rockabilly and R&B tunes. An amazing achievement for this young New Orleans transplant. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that his five original numbers, including the title track Blues Shuffle Heart, are quite good.
Lena Prima – Blessed with a strong voice and famous pedigree, Lena Prima and the Lena Prima Band demonstrate that hard work doesn’t hurt either. This tight group has provided countless evenings entertaining Carousel Room patrons at the Monteleone Hotel. And that experience pours out in the nearly solid hour of hip-swinging numbers on Live at the Dew Drop Jazz & Social Hall. Play this release, close your eyes and transport yourself.
Meschiya Lake –She is such a kick. In fact, you and your partner will be kicking up your heels on the living room rug every time you play Bad Kids Club, released December of last year but close enough to count in this year’s summary. Looking for the slow number, no problem. Her songs are listed by beats per second. This release showcases a singer and band arriving at peak performance.
Cha Wa -. With vocals by Creole Wild West Spyboy Honey Banister and J’Wan Boudreaux, grandson of Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Funk ‘n’ Feathers is helping to expand the audience for the music of the Mardi Gras Indian — a truly original cultural tradition in New Orleans. The release got a lot of play not only on my show but also other KAOS world music programs in our shared weekday time block. If you’re familiar with Mardi Gras Indian songs, you’ve heard it all before. But not quite this way.
Roddie Romero & the Hub-City All-Stars – I have not been totally faithful to New Orleans on my radio show this year and this group is one reason why I’ve been reaching upriver to Lafayette for additional tunes. The product of boyhood friends Roddie Romero and keyboardist/songwriter Eric Adcock, Gulfstream makes rural Louisiana come so alive you can smell the salt tang of the bayou just by listening to it. (Breaking News – Gulfstream is a 2017 Grammy nominee for Best Regional Roots Music Album. Here’s more about the album.
Darcy Malone and the Tangle – Still Life has a retro Alt Band feel with some fun twists . Clearly, the Tangle is not your typical Frenchmen Street band. But it could only happen in New Orleans. Darcy is the daughter of The Radiator’s guitarist Dave Malone, and the saxophone and keyboards that keep things interesting are by LSU music grad Jagon Eldridge. Here’s your proof that the NOLA music scene continues to grow.
Cowboy Mouth: Speaking of which, this band has been challenging the New Orleans music stereotype for 25 years. The Name of the Band Is… provides new recordings of nine of the band’s regular live show songs and three fresh tracks.The band’s strength continues to be drummer Fred LeBlanc’s sharp and clear vocals that showcases the lyrics, which you want to hear, while still allowing you to rock out.
There is an element of excitement when listening to a street performer–it creates an unplanned moment that forces me to choose between carrying on with whatever I was doing or allow for the aural equivalent of “stop and smell the roses.”
The moment can be magical or quite painful depending on the quality of busker. The beauty of a street performance is you can vote with your feet but if your feet don’t move, you should definitely vote with your wallet.
On Monday’s show, I’ll feature musicians who have played on the streets of New Orleans.
But before I go there, let me say that I’ve had many wonderful moments, listening to musicians on sidewalks and parks in Seattle and Olympia. A favorite street event is HonkFest West which has featured one of Olympia’s finest purveyors of street magic, Artesian Rumble Arkestra.
But it’s hard to compete with a 300-year-old city that gave birth to Jazz. New Orleans has a rich tradition of buskers which attracts musicians from all over the world. The city even seems to have its own apprenticeship program.
The wandering Alynda Lee Segarra had not played an instrument until she found a discarded washboard in New Orleans and settled into a routine of playing with street performers. She found her niche, learned banjo and guitar, started singing and wrote her own songs. Now with four major release albums, the singer/songwriter of Hurray for the Riff Raff is playing in venues all over the world.
Tuba Skinny, a band that plays rag time and traditional jazz, is touring Australia right now but when home, the band often plays on Royal Street.
Meschiya Lake also played with various street bands including Loose Marbles but moved to the night clubs when she formed The Little Big Horns Jazz Band. You can usually catch her amazing act live at Chickie Wah Wah on Canal Street on Wednesday nights.
The most widely known street performers of New Orleans are the brass bands. With a long tradition of parades, second lines and musical funeral processions, the city has developed a very strong community of brass musicians and bands. Treme Brass Band and the Rebirth Brass Bands tour the world but can still be found on occasion playing on the streets of New Orleans. The street provides a great place for budding musicians to learn their craft and over time achieve success as evidenced by the Baby Boyz Brass Band and TBC Brass Band.
One of my favorite street music moments occurred when I was walking along Royal Street in April 2006. The guitarist sounded a little like Robert Cray and the harmonica player had a deep bass voice and looked distinctive in his thick grey beard, farmer overalls, straw hat and sunglasses with one lens punched out. I listened for several songs and talked with them between songs. I bought their CD and had them sign it—a practice I still do with street performers I enjoy. Stoney B, the guitarist, has since moved to San Diego where he and his band play regularly at festivals and night clubs. Grandpa Elliott, the harmonica player, became famous as a regular with the Playing For Change band and recordings.