Gumbo Ya Ya Plays Country Music

I’ve been so enjoying watching the Ken Burn’s PBS documentary on Country Music that this week features nearly an hour of country music from Louisiana. Get on the hayride by starting the show (click sideways arrow below)

It seems you can learn a lot about love from country music (which was known on the Billboard charts as “hillbilly” at the same time that R&B music was categorized as “race” music.) Exhibit A is the opening song by Rocket Morgan. Known for his rockabilly, Rocket bares his heart with the forlorn song a “Too High a Price (to Pay for Love).”

It’s been fun watching Gal Holiday’s career as she steadfastly occupies the two-step country western dance crowd in New Orleans clubs. She kicks off the first set with her refined sound. Ken Swartz kicks up the pace a bit more with his country-inflected “Smile Away the Blues.” And the set finishes with the early 20th century retro sound of the Big Dixie Swingers.

The Burns documentary drives home the importance of the clear channel powerful radio stations that blasted country music throughout the country. Most major markets had some sort of country show with the most well known coming from WSM’s Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Hank Williams got his break in playing the Opry after being the star on the Louisiana Hayride broadcast out of Shreveport Louisiana.

Yvette Landry, who lives and performs in the Lafayette area, is an excellent example of how Swamp Pop, country, cajun and blues all come together. Her fine voice is on display with “Friday Night Special” – a song that drives home the point that country music is about the story. She is followed up nicely by The Deslondes performing “Heavenly Home.” Werly Fairburn, who grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry, finishes that set. Later, the talented Alex McMurray channels Waylon Jennings with “Texas Again.”

The back half of the show is a mix of music including two brass band numbers and Kermit Ruffins getting serious with “West Indies Jazz Dance.”

Thanks for tuning in.

Your 2018 New Orleans Music Buying Guide

Here’s a list of 2018 releases from New Orleans musicians for you to consider and you can listen to them with my latest show. No rational order to the list other than this is the order you’ll hear them on the show, which you can start right now. The song played is in italics.

The Big Dixie Swingers: Ranch Stressing – A fiddler and crooning banjoist backed up by trumpet, clarinet and drums perform a collection of pre-war Western Swing, Country Blues, and popular songs.  Razz Matazz Soup

Big Sam’s Funky Nation: Songs in the Key of Funk: Volume One – Trombonist Big Sam Williams brings back the funk for his latest release with his actively touring band.  Dance to the CD then dance to him when he comes through your area. “Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further”

Sean ArdoinKreole Rock and Soul Ardoin’s grammy nominated release of  soul, rock and pop songs, all with a distinctive creole flavor, is designed to get you to dance — instructional dance video included. “Kick Rocks”

Marcia Ball: Shine Bright  – Her dual Texas and Louisiana musicianship status is on full display in support of a seasoned voice that leaves no doubt of the veracity of her songs. “I Got to Find Somebody”

Jonathon Long: Jonathon Long –  In his third release, this Baton Rouge-based guitarist and singer has seen “the light” and put more emphasis on his songwriting and singing.  A damn good idea well executed  by producer Samantha Fish. “The Light”

Ever More Nest: The Place That You Call Home  –  Kelcy Mae’s latest project offers a deeply intimate perspective on the saying “there’s no place like home.” This Shreveport native lives and works in New Orleans and recorded this beautiful album in Nashville for a national audience. “Broken Bones”

Tin Men:  Sing with Me – Washboard Chaz anchors and lends his voice to this unique trio which showcases the fascinating songs of Alex McMurray (guitar and vocals) and the sousaphone wizardry of Matt Perrine.  “Scraper Man”

Riverside Jazz Collective: Stomp Off, Let’s Go – Recorded at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music by New Orleans pros who can  be heard regularly around town, particularly at The Bombay Club, this album features gently time-worn “songs that are melodically and emotionally durable.”  “Ready for the River”

Sabertooth Swing: Extinct Possibilities – Another sharp traditional New Orleans jazz band that manages to make it all sound fresh and fun. “Alcohol”

Bon Bon Vivant: Live At The New Orleans Jazz Museum – Enjoyable sister harmonies, genre-bending style and a clear affection for New Orleans history performed before the perfect live audience. “The Jazz Axe Man”

Jon Cleary: Dyna-Mite – If you’ve been waiting for Cleary’s full band follow up to his 2016 Grammy win, wait no more!  – “Dyna-Mite”

Ivan Neville and Cris Jacobs: Neville Jacobs – New Orleans funk and soul meets Baltimore rock and blues.  I hope its not a one off. “Make Up of a Fool”

Gal Holiday: Lost & Found – Vanessa Neuman, aka Gal Holiday, lays down a tasty selection of mostly original honky tonk country tunes. “Come Home”

Ghalia & Mama’s Boys: Let the Demons Out  – Energetic vocals of Belgium-born Ghalia Vauthier, who has been mining the Mississippi River blues scene for this release — well supported by Johnny Mastro & Mama’s Boys.  “Hoodo Evil Man”

Little Freddie King: Fried Rice & Chicken – Straight, no chaser blues by a man who is still a treasured member of the Ninth Ward live music scene. “Mean Little Woman”

Old Riley & Water:  Biting Through –  Gritty, fuzzy, stripped down blues from a group I hadn’t heard of till the album turned up at KAOS — they regularly perform at House of Blues in New Orleans.  “Trouble”

Keith Stone with Red Gravy: Blues with a Taste of New Orleans – Keith Stone has clearly made it back home with this solid cast of musicians delivering exactly what the album title promises, with an extra serving of red gravy. “Blue Eyed Angel”

Eric Lindell: Revolution in Your Heart – Another great release of southern R&B. This time, Lindell plays just about every instrument. “Grandpa Jim”

Ted Hefko and the Thousandaires: Gas Station Guru – Saxophonist/bandleader Hefko takes you through a laid back set of R&B, blues and jazz that is steeped in New Orleans. “The Roofer”

Shawn Williams:   Motel Livin’ – Falling somewhere near the alt-country zone, her second album is a gripping compendium of lyrical songs that may leave you a bit unnerved but fully entertained. “Best of Me”

Helen Gillet: Helkiase– A French and English singing cellist with a strong attraction to improvisation, jazz, funk and New Orleans, Gillet’s latest project can be edgy, melodic, soothing and tense.  Check out her KAOS studio performance  and interview from this summer. “Vautour”

Cyril Neville: Endangered Species: The Essential Recordings:If you’re not a close follower of the most soulful and political of the Neville brothers, then this release serves as a nice sampler of his five releases from his Endangered Species label. “Ayiti”

Cha Wa: Spyboy – Waiting for the next generation to pick up the mantle for The Wild Magnolias (but perhaps with more brass!) Look no further then this second release of this millennial group that has the fire!  Grammy nominated too.  “Get On Out Of the Way” 

Michot’s Melody Makers: Blood Moon – Cajun music for new ears, and broad-minded old ones, crafted with respect to tradition. “La Lune est Croche”

Lena Prima:  Prima La Famiglia You don’t have to be Italian to enjoy Lena’s reconnection with her roots. They’re songs her father would sing but this time, its her voice. “Come On A My House”

Jon BatisteHollywood Africans – If you’re a fan of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” you know what he looks like.  The late night show bandleader provides a much deeper glance with this release featuring solo piano and singing.  “Don’t Stop”

Louie Ludwig‘sTroll Factory” – No album this year from this politically impish New Orleans songwriter and video maker but his proletariat perspective of this new world sweat shop hits it out of the proverbial Zenit Arena.  If you like, check out his YouTube Channel.

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Here’s a glimpse into New Orleans country music scene

Two June CD releases are burnishing the city’s country music reputation and you’ll hear tracks from both in today’s show. Start it rolling and then learn more about Shawn Williams and Gal Holiday.

shawn williamsShawn Williams’ second album Motel Livin’ is a gripping compendium of lyrical songs that leave me a bit unnerved but fully entertained.  Her voice haunts and I’m going to enjoy digging deeper into this new release.  I play “Best of Me” and later “Buried Alive.”

More upbeat and more battle worn is Gal Holiday and her Honky Tonk Revue with the new release Lost & Found. Almost a decade before The Deslondes formed, Gal Holiday (aka Vanessa Niemann) broke ground on the new wave of country in New Orleans. And true to her band’s name, you can dance to her music. I play “Found Myself Instead” and “Desert Disco.”

While Luke Winslow-King’s music has been difficult to describe, I’ve never thought of it as country until his latest release Blue Mesa. You can listen to his “After the Rain” and decide for yourself.

To keep the roots vibe rolling, I follow these sets up with The Big Dixie Swingers with “I Haven’t Got a Pot,” Eric Lindell with a live version of “Bayou Country” and The Radiators doing “Straight Eight.”  Also, an encore performance of Albanie Falletta who charmed the smart attendees of her concert at Traditions Cafe in Olympia Sunday night.

Jazz sets follow and if you’re patient enough I finish with Dash Rip Rock’s “Let’s Go Smoke Some Pot” in honor of the State of Oklahoma adopting a medical cannabis initiative this week.

Oh and I almost forgot, while digging through the KAOS studio’s vinyl vault I found Danny Barker’s 1988 release Save the Bones  and I played his version of “St. James Infirmary.” Struck by his riffing on the traditional lyrics description of his funeral, I thought about Fred Johnson’s  description of how Danny Barker’s traditional funeral came about that I recorded in October of 2017 in his office in New Orleans.  You’ll get to hear the story as well on this show.

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