For over six years I have featured music from Louisiana, mostly from New Orleans. This week’s show, however, is a bit of a departure. Not sure what happened, but a check of the calendar might shed some light on the situation. Get it started and I’ll try to explain.
It was a dark and stormy night (actually the show airs in Olympia on Thursday mornings). Still a strange thing happened when I attempted to play Kermit Ruffin’s “Do You Know What It Means (to Miss New Orleans),” and “The City of New Orleans” by Arlo Guthrie played instead.
I twisted a few nobs, cranked the huge lever over my head, held by breath for six and half seconds and then proceeded with the next set of what I hoped would be music from New Orleans and instead I subjected my listeners to some awesome songs by regional bands along the I-5 corridor: Vaudeville Etiquette, Kate Dinsmore, the Righteous Mothers, and the Blackberry Bushes.
Before taking a sledgehammer to my console, I checked the calendar and good thing too. I’m not sure what forces come to play on April Fool’s Day but it was beyond my control. After that first set, I could only muster one song per set from New Orleans area. And I challenged listeners to pick which one it was.
So, in a set loaded with The Beat, Fine Young Cannibals and the Crazy 8s, you had to locate the New Orleans Rocksteady band 007. In the next set with Bruce Hornsby, the Cave Singers, Rockapella and Curtis Harding, you had to catch the Revivalists — a New Orleans based band. Later, you had to find the New Orleans song hidden among Devil Makes Three, Deadstring Brothers and local phenom Anna Gordon. (Here’s her bandcamp site.)
And so it went for the rest of show until the end. I think I’ll have things in proper working order next week but for now you can enjoy two hours of music that is only sort of from New Orleans. Cheers.
The Boswell Sisters start this week’s show with “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” a song that begins with the line “Change in the weather, change in the sea. From now on, there’ll be a change in me.” Like many Boswell numbers, the song smartly shifts tempo, and then serves as an anthem for personal change. A fitting song for the times — not to mention the weather. You can listen to that song and the rest of the show right now by clicking the side arrow below.
Earl King follows the opening song with “Love Can Change the World” and Debbie Davis, who once sang with the Pfister Sisters, a New Orleans group inspired by the Boswells, lays down a pointed song called “Your Racist Friend.”
Later in the show, I play a set of contemporary alternative rock by The Revivalists and The Iceman Special. The Revivalists are well known for a number 1 song called “Wish I Knew You” (when I was young). Instead though I play a nine-minute live version of “Soulfight.”
Near the end of the hour, you will hear a set of music handpicked by Mark and Edith, regular visitors to New Orleans but also listeners and supporters of KAOS. You’ll hear these Olympia residents explain why they love New Orleans. I very much appreciated their plug for supporting community radio. Here’s how you can join them in doing that for KAOS and KMRE .
My brass band guarantee for this show is a bit more jazzier than usual with original songs by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Soul Rebels. Later you’ll hear George Porter Jr. doing “Check Out Your Mind” — a nice counterpoint to the Boswell’s “There’ll Be Some Changes Made.”
As usual this show contains a mix of musical genres including vintage jazz, some swing, a bit of blues, rock, swamp pop, and Mardi Gras songs. I hope you enjoy. Please consider subscribing and feel free to leave a comment on the music you like.
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.
Galactic, an ever evolving New Orleans band that tours nationally, will be on the wet side of the Cascades this coming week.
On Thursday February 26, Galactic will take the stage at Bellingham’s Wild Buffalo before rolling down to Seattle’s Showbox on Friday and finishing its tour of Interstate-5 at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on Saturday.
The band formed in 1994 and was inspired by The Meters and other funk bands playing in Benny’s Bar, a long-gone uptown establishment located not more than a football field from where the Nevilles used to live. The band’s original name Galactic Prophylactic was quickly shortened while it led a second wave of New Orleans funk bands.
The first decade, Galactic was powered by the vocals of journeyman R&B and soul singer Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet. With its jam band tendencies, the group developed a loyal following for its live shows.
While the band has gone through a number of personnel changes over the years, the core of the group includes founding members Jeff Raines (guitar), Robert Mercurio (bass), Stanton Moore (drums) and Rich Vogel (keyboards). Also, saxophonist Ben Ellman, who produced Trombone Shorty’s first two albums, has been a long-time mainstay of the band.
After the departure of DeClouet in 2004, the band got into producing its own music using loops and samples and invited a wide range of mostly New Orleans talent into the studio with them. Ya-ka-may, probably my favorite Galactic album, includes Irma Thomas, Trombone Shorty, John Boutte, Katey Red, Big Freedia, and Big Chief Bo Dollis. The first song also includes a sample from the fright night show Morgus the Magnificent.
Individually, Galactic band members are highly active musicians and music producers involved in a wide range of other projects, including some with Seattle saxophonist Skerik (who will be in Portland Maine on Saturday). This week’s I-5 tour is an excellent chance to catch them live. But if you can’t do that, I’ll be playing my favorite Galactic numbers on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa on Monday. (Sneak tip: I will have tickets to the Portland show to give away.)
Also, consider subscribing (upper right hand column). I write regularly about New Orleans music, particularly as it relates to the Northwest.
Here’s my Holiday buying guide of 2014 releases for that special person in your life who digs music from New Orleans. Don’t know anyone like that? Yea, you do. (This is actually Part 1. I’ve added a Part 2.)
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The Revivalists – – This seven member contemporary rock group with a New Orleans flair has been exciting audiences since 2007. The City of Sound double disc wisely includes a live set so you can get a feel for the band in action.
Hurray for Riff Raff – Alynda Lee Segarra may be from New York but she found her passion and honed her talent on the streets of New Orleans. Small Town Heroes, the latest from this Americana songwriter puts a fresh spin on roots music.
New Orleans Suspect – Third release is the charm for this textbook gumbo yaya band that draws direct influences from the Meters, Nevilles, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and The Radiators. Destined to make my overall top 10 list for 2014, Ouroboros means the Suspects no longer need to be compared to their previous projects.
Glen David Andrews – He’s Troy Andrews cousin but don’t expect Trombone Shorty despite Glen’s awesome trombone work. Instead you’ll get a double shot of gospel and soul in Redemption, growled out by an unrepentant preacher who has no intention of ceasing his prowling of nightclubs. Thank goodness.
Jimmy Carpenter – This blues saxman with Walter Wolfman Washington’s band on his resume’ hits full stride on his second solo release, Walk Away. Carpenter offers up smooth, swingy blues with wonderful touches that make it clear where he calls home.
Ingrid Lucia – If you only know her wonderful version of “Zat You Santa Claus,” Living the Life is your opportunity to fall deeply in love with this voice, starting with her opening track, “Do You Remember Walter.” We didn’t get this album at KAOS but I’ve gradually been buying tracks, like “Put the Radio On,” since she released this album.
Royal Southern Brotherhood – Cyril Neville’s vocals complement this royal group of southern blues artists (Devon Allman, Yonrico Scott, Charlie Wooten and Mike Zito). Another entry for my top ten list, HeartSoulBlood magically fuses blues to soul and R&B. Speaking of magic, Magic Honey was Cyril’s solo release this year.
Lena Prima is living testament to writer Chris Rose’s posit that “New Orleans girls never live anywhere else and even if they do, they always come back.” Starting Something tracks the return of the prodigal daughter of Louis Prima to New Orleans. The more you listen, the more you’ll be delighted she came home.
Henry Butler – Brilliantly paired with New York trumpeter Steven Bernstein, Henry Butler demonstrates his virtuosity on piano while providing something for almost every Jazz taste on Viper’s Drag.
Louis Prima Jr. – Lena’s little brother demonstrates how to make swing and rock and roll relevant and hip in the 21st Century. With Blow, Louis Junior goes his own way without straying too far from his pop’s tree. He and his band are not NOLA based but the album provides more than a passing nod to the city where he first connected with music.
The Last Hombres – Odd Fellows Rest is a product of a band that has been rambling about for over a decade until the drummer settled down in New Orleans and invited the band to bunker down and find their collective muse. Combine the pedal steel of The New Riders of the Purple Sage with songwriting reminiscent of Tom Petty and throw in some tasteful Hot 8 Brass Band and you have a CD that gets better with every spin.
Flow Tribe – Self described as “bizarrely irresistable,” this funk rock band of six genuine NOLA hipsters (with birth certificates to prove it) give you a taste of what its like to see them live with five upbeat studio tracks on Alligator White. (See if you can catch their reference to what’s been described as the best dive bar in New Orleans.)
Rory Danger & the Danger Dangers The perfect gift for the historian/adventurer on your list, Age of Exploration is the first release of this New Orleans rockabilly group. This Shackleton-themed concept album is largely the product of hardworking reeds-woman Aurora Nealand. Another CD that hasn’t found its way to KAOS, I’ve only heard the two tracks I’ve purchased online but I want more.
The Iguanas – This year brought us, Juarez, the eighth album by a venerable New Orleans group that has been keeping dancers happy by blending Latin styles with New Orleans groove. If you have ever seen them live, say at Rock ‘N’ Bowl, you know what I’m talking about.
Billy Pierce and Friends – Fine slide blues made exceptional on Take Me Back to the Delta by his “friends,” notably Sonny Landreth, Jimmy Carpenter, Waylon Thibodeaux and the guys who put the Bone in Bonerama (Craig Klein, Mark Mullins and Greg Hicks). It’s not all New Orleans music but by the time you get to “Give Me A Dollar,” it won’t matter.
Marcia Ball – She may be from Texas but she has her NOLA residency card for reasons that are amply supplied by The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man. How does she do it?
Rebirth Brass Band – Erasing all doubt that they could top their grammy winning Rebirth of New Orleans album of 2012, these guys did that and more with Move Your Body. After 31 years of playing all night gigs and second lining, Rebirth is doing their most entertaining work. Want to loosen up a boring party, play the track HBNS. Oh yea! (A no brainer for my top 10)