To mix it up on Gumbo YaYa, I often played music from acts from Baton Rouge and Lafayette. But until this week, I had barely passed through those towns. A musical evening in Lafayette and a quick blues festival stop in Baton Rouge began the process of remedying that experience gap.
Kim and I have been driving about a bit since the last show and we’ve caught music in Bend, Oregon (The Pinehearts), some stray live tunes in Moab, Utah and Santa Fe, and a hoedown at the Little Longhorn Saloon in Austin. But we hit the main music vein when we got to Lafayette.
We caught a few bands downtown and at the Blue Moon Saloon but the big strike was the “Medicine Show” a showcase of student and faculty performances from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Traditional Music Program. The program was celebrating 25 years of providing guidance to young musicians in the history and practice of Cajun music, zydeco, bluegrass, blues and other root styles.
Accomplished students with famous last names such as “Benoit,” “Sonnier” and “Guidry” offered up songs such as “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane,” “Give Him Cornbread,” and “Zydeco Stomp.” In all, five distinct student groups took the stage led by some of the all-star cast of this amazing music program.
The faculty includes, among others, Nathan Williams Jr. of Lil Nathan and the Zydeco Big Timers, Chas Justus of the Revelers, Chad Huval with Beausoleil, Blake Miller of the Red Stick Ramblers and Pine Leaf Boys, Gina Forsyth solo fiddler/songwriter and Lee Allen Zeno who played with Buckwheat Zydeco. All of the faculty performed, including coming together for an “Instructor All-Stars” performance. That was followed by another long set by an ad hoc group that included Zachary Richard, Sonny Landreth, Henry Hample, Ward Lormand, Gary Newman and Danny Kimball.
The next day, Kim and I drove into Baton Rouge, hooked up with Bill Boelens who co-hosts Dirty Rice on KRVS in Lafayette and Back Down the Bayou on WPVM in Baton Rouge. We got on downtown for the blues festival and caught Roddie Romero and Michael Juan Nunez as they were performing Romero’s “The Creole Nightingale Sings” from his excellent Gulfstream release from 2016 (Show featuring my interview with him.) This fan boy moment of meeting these two musicians after their set (and getting Nunez new record) was made even greater when Bill introduced me to Larry Garner who was sitting in the audience preparing to catch the next act. This Louisiana Blues Hall of Famer has three of his records on the KAOS blues shelf and I’ve drawn from them regularly over the years.
Wrote more than I really wanted to do, just needed an excuse to show off these pictures.
If you grew up with the phrase “See You Later Alligator,” chances are you are also familiar with the hit song by Bill Haley and the Comets. Today’s show features songs by the songwriter (Robert Charles Guidry) who wrote and originally recorded that record.
However, the show starts with Dr. John singing “Let the Good Times Roll” which you would know by now if you would just click the arrow below.
Born February 21, 1938, Bobby Charles is noted for being an early adopter and developer of the “swamp pop” sound that originated from south Louisiana’s Acadiana region. Swamp Pop had its heyday in the early 60’s but has seen a resurgence with recent releases by Roddie Romero, The Revelers and Yvette Landry. The latter featuring covers of Bobby Charles songs, including “Yea, Yea Baby” which you’ll hear in the show. I also play Fats Domino’s “Walking to New Orleans” and Bobby Charles” rollicking rendition of “Take It Easy, Greasy.”
Today’s show kicks off though with a solid set of jazz with Dr. Michael White, Tuba Skinny, Kid Ory, Smoking Time Jazz Club, Louis Armstrong, and Eight Dice Cloth.
This show also features some Cajun music and another set of Mardi Gras inspired songs, including Los Hombres Calientes’ “Mardi Gras Second Line.”
Stick with the show into the second hour and you’ll hear Maria Muldaur’s naughty version of “Trombone Man Blues” and a sweet, bluesy cover of “If I Had a Hammer.” The show finishes with Jon Cleary’s “Zulu Strut.”
This show dives into Lafayette music, with a strong assist from Yvette Landry’s new swamp pop album, Louisiana Lovin’. If you click the player below, you’ll start the show with Dr. John and Cyril Neville singing”Chickee’ Le Pas” – – whatever the heck that means.
Landry starts off the first full set of music with “Yea Yea Baby,” a wonderful duet with Roddie Romero who a few years back almost won himself a grammy for his Gulfstream release — which is where the second song “One Trick Pony” comes from. (Here’s more on Romero.) In the interest of balance, Michael Doucet does “Fonky Bayou” and Fernest Arceneaux performs “It’s Alright.”
Zachary Richard continues the Lafayette groove with a live performance from the Acadien music festival. Later, Landry does an encore from her new album, a cover of “Take it Easy, Greasy.” In all, its a great way to start the show but I do eventually take us back to New Orleans with some classic funk.
The Explosions do two of their three singles they recorded under the guidance of Eddie Bo as producer. It seemed to fit to spin Bo’s 1960 release “Every Dog Has Its Day” during that set.
I play cuts from new records by Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Big Al and the Heavyweights and the Radiators. You can see the full playlist here or just let the music flow over you. Thanks for tuning in and consider subscribing.
This week’s show is about money. . .because despite community radio being free of commercial pressure it still depends on hard green cash to run. You can start the show now while you finish reading this. (Don’t worry, I’ve edited out the lengthy pledge appeals.)
As a 12-year-old, I would turn the radio on instead of going to sleep and from the shadows of my bedroom in Norman, Oklahoma, I would listen to deejays from Chicago, St. Louis and Dallas. The deejays would tell me about the weather, describe the music, and talk about their day while their commercials would hail the virtues of car dealers and appliance stores in their communities. Snuggled in my bed, I would envision what it would be like to live there.
I’ve always loved radio for its ability to ground me in the moment while also transporting me to other places. Unlike the constructed mass appeal of television, radio is a personal and live experience. One person speaking into a mike, sharing music and stories, talking to me wherever I might be.
While much of commercial radio has changed to a more decentralized and impersonal experience, community radio, particularly KAOS, 89.3 FM, Olympia, has moved in the other direction. Housed and supported by The Evergreen State College, KAOS trains its volunteer deejays, works with them on developing a show, provides them the studio platform and then cuts them loose to do their thing. The result is some inconsistency in delivery and mechanics but because of that diversity, the station preserves the spontaneity and joy of being in the moment. I tell that to myself every time I push the wrong button or cue up the wrong song or stammer through some sort of transition.
We’re not slick, we’re real
And though we wouldn’t exist if not for the generous support of the college and its students, we do need to show that the station has listeners. Listeners who appreciate the station’s existence enough to help underwrite its cost. It’s a different model from the commercial era, but worth it if you love real radio.
(Today’s show – see above podcast – starts with the New Orleans Suspects, features two songs by Chubby Newsome recorded in New Orleans, a vinyl track of Huey “Piano” Smith, the Tin Men, Lil Rascals Brass Band, Roddie Romero & the Hub City All-Stars, Ingrid Lucia, James Andrews and much more)
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.
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.
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.
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.