We take a joy ride with the help of The Melatauns and dozens of other New Orleans musical acts on this week’s show.You can get it started while I fill you in on the show.
We’ve been cooped up long enough so let’s hit the road with The Melataun’s “Joy Ride” — a song that reminded me of my childhood visits to Pontchartrain Beach — an amusement park that featured a wooden roller coaster called the Zephyr. We stay on track with Kenny Neal’s “Blues Mobile,” Marva Wright’s “Further On Up the Road,” Paul Sanchez’ “Drive Right Back” and Sonny Landreth’s “U.S.S. Zydecoldsmobile.”
But “What Goes Around Comes Around” (Rebirth Brass Band) and so we dive into a little weirdness including Ecirb Muller’s Twisted Dixie rendition of “My Blue Heaven” redone as a historical ménage à trois and Bon Bon Vivant’s “The Bones.”
I set aside 16 minutes for a live performance at the now closed Saturn Bar by Michot’s Melody Makers. That set also includes Booker performing live in Manchester England.
You’ll also hear the New Orleans Suspects, Shawn Williams, Albanie Falletta, James Andrews, the Subdudes, Creole String Beans, and Papa Mali, among others. It’s a two-hour show afterall.
One more recorded show before I’m back in the studio doing live shows. Subscribe if you like and thanks for tuning in.
This week’s show is a look (and listen) back at the great music made during hard times this year. You’ll hear at least two and usually three tracks from each of my top 10 favorite releases this year. (But hey, they’re all great so check out my annual summary.) You’ll also hear a few band voices such as Matt Perrine (Nightcrawlers), Craig Klein (Vipers and Nightcrawlers), and Abigail Cosio (Bon Bon Vivant).
New Orleans Nightcrawlers –Atmosphere – First record in 11 years for this funky brass band and it nails a Grammy nomination. No surprise given the collective talent of these nine musicians with a love for creating innovative music based on the New Orleans brass and second line tradition. At about three-fourths through the show, you’ll hear Matt Perrine talk about what makes the Nightcrawlers unique. Also, the show opens with “The Lick” and here’s the five-hour video that I mention in the show.
Shake ’em Up Jazz Band: The Boy in the Boat – Lots to enjoy with this late 2019 release, including Chloe Feoranzo‘s clarinet and Marla Dixon’s trumpet but what sets this record apart from the many other excellent New Orleans swing releases is the singing. From Haruka Kikuchi’s rendition of “Salty Dog” to the harmonizing on “Nuts to You,” this album never fails to make me smile.
Smoking Time Jazz Club– Mean Tones and High Notes – This band made my top ten last year with Contrapuntal Stomp and this year’s record is even better with jaw-dropping performances that don’t get in the way of great song choices. Everybody needs to get vaccinated so I can go see this band live.
John “Papa” Gros – Central City – Former funkmaster has improved on his earlier excellent solo release, Rivers of Fire, with a tasty mix of original songs and covers, including John Prine’s “Please Don’t Bury Me.” This a playful record made in a very New Orleans way.
Bon Bon Vivant – Dancing in the Darkness – When COVID hit the fan this year, Abigail Cosio and partner Jeremy Kelley created community with fellow musicians and fans through heartfelt and continuously improving live music feeds. Meanwhile, they were waiting for the right time to spring this record of pandemic prescient songs. I’m so glad to be dancing, even if the “Ship is Sinking.” Near the end of this show, Abigail introduces her song “This Year.”
New Orleans Jazz Vipers: Is There a Chance for Me – For nearly two decades, this band has helped defined the Frenchmen Street music scene with a swing sound in which every member of the band takes turns shining and singing. Lots of songs about love, making it just that much more fun to grab your partner and show off your footwork. Trombonist Craig Klein gets on the show midway through to introduce the title track which has a fascinating history
Sierra Green & the Soul Machine: Sierra Green & the Soul Machine – Came out December of last year and by February, Offbeat Magazine recognized her as Emerging Artist of the Year. This record will make you hope that COVID is just a temporary setback. We need her music.
Alex McMurray –Lucky One – McMurray is a musical chameleon capable of rock and rock steady, sea shanties and swing. But at his core, and quite evidence in this record particularly, is a maturing storyteller whose voice delivers droll, yet heartfelt, introspection.
Paul Sanchez – I’m a song, I’m a story, I’m a ghost – Like McMurry who he partners with in The Write Brothers, Sanchez delivers heartfelt songs with a voice to match. His duet on “Walking in Liverpool” alone is worth the album.
Colin Lake – Forces of Nature – Apparently, these songs were recorded before Lake and his wife sold their New Orleans home, bought a sailboat and began a life of itinerant Caribbean sailors. And yet, the vibe of the album manages to capture a reflective, meditative mood with themes more relevant than ever.
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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.
So many great releases this year, I had to break it up into two parts. As you will see, there is no order or reason to who is Part 1 versus Part 2.
This is not a comprehensive list of New Orleans 2015 releases but rather music I played on my show this year, thanks to the generosity of the artists who shared their creations with me or my station. Not every artist can afford to distribute music to a West Coast small market station like KAOS. So if you did, thank you.
Tubaluba– I’m starting close to home because this Seattle-based brass band has every intention of closing the gap between the Northwest and New Orleans. Crescent City wannabe Josh Wilson leads the group with total dedication to capturing the spirit and tradition of New Orleans brass and R&B music. Their first release Champagne Sunday delivers. You can catch these guys locally. So do it!
Helen Gillet – This Belgian cellist creates haunting, beautiful melodies often to a hypnotic rhythm capable of transporting you far from wherever you are. If you’ve caught her one-person performances using loops, you’ll find that her latest release Bangkok Silver ably recreates that experience and more. I’ve only caught two tracks so far but I want more.
Shamarr Allen – This creative young trumpeter who writes infectiously upbeat songs with lyrics that open himself to his audience (including giving out his real phone number) isn’t planning on releasing True Orleans until spring 2016. Throughout this year though, he’s been sharing his musical ideas with fans through “mixtapes“available for download. His past CDs are fun too. Check him out.
Paul Sanchez – Speaking of fearless songwriters, this founding member of Cowboy Mouth clearly loves challenges, like putting Dan Baum’s Nine Lives to music. With his 12th solo release, his vision goes global with The World is Round: Everything That Ends Begin Again. Filled with enjoyable tracks that bounce between pop, rock and folk, the CD provides a complete orbit of a man who truly lives and loves to write songs.
Dash Rip Rock – Over the last two decades, this three-piece band with a bent sense of humor and distinctive alt-country swamp punk sound has built a loyal regional following. Their latest release Wrongheaded leans deliciously toward Southern rock emphasizing stories over humor. There’s commitment in this release. They ain’t coming home until the sun comes up.
Jello Biafra and the New Orleans Raunch and Soul All Stars– Dash Rip Rock’s Bill Davis got Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) down to his city on a dare and put together a kick ass band for a night that I suspect many will remember till their dying day. Thankfully, for the many of us who missed it, Walk on Jindal’s Splintersdoes a good job of capturing the experience.
Billy Iuso – A journeyman guitarist that you may have heard but not heard of, Iuso continues building a strong repertoire of original songs with his latest release, Overstanding. He first caught my attention with his live show at the Freret Street Festival this year where every song just got better the longer he jammed.
Sneaky Pete & the Fens – If you have overdosed on too many versions of “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans,” then Live in Pompeii could be your anecdote. Writer Peter Orr turns to music to tell stories about his troubled girl, New Orleans — the Cajun Haiti “where half the state is toxic and the other half is in the sea.” Recorded in a grocery store that serves the Marigny neighborhood but sells a mezzanine level full of Mardi Gras paraphernalia, Orr shares what he loves and fears about his city.
Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers– Kermit does that delicate balancing act of playing to the tourists while also sustaining the love and loyalty of locals. He’s the genuine article. Grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward, co-founded Rebirth Brass Band, saved the Mother-in-Law Lounge and reveres Satchmo. His latest serving, #imsoneworleans, contributes to his icon status.
Ted Hefko and the Thousandaires – I had a hard time deciding what music shelf to place Distillations of the Blues when it arrived in the studio. Is it jazz, blues, folk or country? Trained mostly in New Orleans but having spent a good chunk of his professional life in New York, Hefko has returned home creating music, with engaging lyrics, that is fortunately a lot easier to listen to than it is define.
Charlie Dennard – Another example of the incredible depth of talent in New Orleans, Dennard lays down 10 jazzy, groove-based tracks on 5 o’clock Charlie with his Hammond B-3 organ and the able contributions of the rest of his trio. Grab your favorite mellow mood maker, it’s happy hour time.
Galactic – This year’s release Into The Deep harkens back to their first decade when the band was fronted by soul singer Theryl Declouet while illustrating how much this talented group has learned over their 20 years. A strong guest list of vocalists including Mavis Stables and Macy Gray carry the load this time. The band tours the Northwest February 26 and 27, 2016.
The Revivalists– With a sound designed to garner alternative rock air time, the Revivalists have built a national audience based on strong songwriting and energetic live performances. Galactic’s Ben Ellman returns as producer for Men Amongst Mountains which builds on the success they had with their previous City of Sound release. They hit the Northwest on March 9 and 10. 2016.
Smoky Greenwell – His New Orleans Blues Jam – Live at the Old U.S. Mint was released last year but didn’t find its way into the studio until this summer. The band righteously does straight ahead blues with a sweet number by accordionist, vocalist and park ranger Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes.
Thank you so much for reading this blog and listening to my show. If you like to keep in touch, please subscribe or send me an email. I may not live in New Orleans but my ears spend a lot of time there. Have a Happy New Year. Also check out last year’s review of 2014 releases.
So below are three items: Jazzfest lineup, great new music at KAOS and a heads up on my Monday interview.
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has announced its 2015 line up. As usual, the music is far from limited to jazz and offers some unique shows and musician pairings. I’ll provide more depth in a later post. Right now, you need to know the festival is seven days stretched over 10, starting Friday April 24 and ending Sunday, May 3. Be sure to check the line up by day if you’re planning a trip.
While there’s some interesting headliners (e.g. Elton John and The Who), I recommend some of the harder to see local acts like: a reunion of the Radiators; Henry Butler recreating his 2014 album with Steve Bernstein and the Hot 9; a hip hop pairing of Juvenile and Mannie Fresh; Ivan Neville and Dumpstaphunk playing with his uncle, Art Neville; The Dirty Dozen Band; George Porter Jr. & the Runnin’ Pardners, and, best of all, The Meters with all four founding members–worth the price of admission right there.
New Music in the KAOS Studio – I’m loving the music we’re getting in the studio from
New Orleans artists. Since writing about the 2014 releases (Part 1 and Part 2), we’ve received two CDs from Lynn Drury, including her latest one “Come To My House.” I’m afraid I have a serious music crush on this earthy singer, guitarist, and songwriter. Check out “I Know You Want Me, Baby” and you’ll know what I mean.
If you’re worried traditional New Orleans jazz is dying out, look no further than the Shotgun Jazz Band. It’s fourth album Yearning, carries you to Frenchmen Street with a solid mix of standards and less heard wonders.
Tubaluba – Seattle’s answer to New Orleans brass bands – Josh Wilson, who plays the bass drum and keyboards for Seattle’s Tubaluba, will be on the phone with me during Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa this Monday (just after 11 a.m.). I caught Tubaluba at the 2013 Seattle Honkfest. The band members are clearly fans of New Orleans brass band music. Wilson even has a WWOZ sticker on his bass drum. The interview will highlight the band’s upcoming performance in Olympia at Rhythm & Rye on January 24.
That’s your heads up and preview for my next show. Join me, won’t you?
This is the first “festive” season for Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa so our collection of holiday music from New Orleans that I can play on the show is a bit limited. But the Internet is a vast resource of holiday cheer. So for this post, I’m sharing some of my favorite New Orleans holiday videos.
I can’t think of a better way to start then the dulcet tone of Aaron Neville doing “The Christmas Song.”
Okay, time to crank it up, here’s Bonerama doing “Merry Christmas Baby.”
What do you want from Santa? If you’re Kermit, you’d like your hometown football team, despite their 6-8 record, in the Superbowl in a “Saints Christmas.”
A quarter century ago, Benny Grunch and the Bunch did the “12 Yats of Christmas,” a humorous reference to a unique New Jersey-style accent in New Orleans made famous by the novel Confederacy of Dunces (also see my take on New Orleans speak). Some of the New Orleans locales are no longer, but the visuals and song are still very funny.
Regardless of the season, its not New Orleans unless you can do a little buck jumping in a second line. Take it away TBC Brass Band:
Paul Sanchez captures a snoutful of holiday spirit with “I Got Drunk this Christmas.”
I love the way New Orleans music can swing and soothe at the same time. Here’s Funky Butt Brass Band doing “Christmas Time in New Orleans.”
I’ll close this post out with Troy Andrews, aka Trombone Shorty, doing “O Holy Night.” May your holiday season be bright and happy. Thank you for reading and listening. Cheers.