Tiffany Pollack, Okra, Cajun Singles and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Tiffany Pollack & Co. hits the post-pandemic music scene with momentum from a brand new record that opens up new avenues for this singer, songwriter, band leader and occasional mortician. One song kicks off this week’s show which she calls in on about an hour later for a live KAOS radio interview. (The episode below is the KMRE version of the same show and airs in Bellingham on Fridays).

Tiffany Pollack -Currently performing regularly on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans.

Following up on the success of her blues album recorded with cousin Eric Johansen, New Orleans-based Pollack collected a dozen of her original songs, went to Memphis with her band and recorded Bayou Liberty with the assistance of producer and blues musician John Nemeth. But its far from a blues album. In the course of our conversation, we both agreed our favorite track is Mountain, a Western style number featuring pedal steel and sweet vocals. Others songs channel honky-tonks, early morning smoky (now smoke-free) nightclubs and sticky-seated dives where you go mainly for the crawfish and beer.

As a mother of three, she also shares how her kids do a good job of keeping her in her place, no matter how bright her music star shines. And yea, she talks briefly about how as a licensed funeral director she still gets called in to do services for that short-handed business.

From the 1956 film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

A great find of fresh okra at the Olympia Farmer’s Market last weekend inspired a set of music featuring two versions of Mr. Okra — a song written by Sonia Tetlow and Craig Klein in honor of Arthur James Robins (Mr. Okra) who drove a colorful vegetable truck through the streets of New Orleans with sing-song amplified announcements of available produce. He died in 2018 (NPR story). To introduce that song, I play a brief clip from an earlier interview with Craig Klein about the process of writing that song with Tetlow. Later in the set, Monk Boudreaux sings a Jamaican-inflected “Mr. Okra Man” – in his own take of the street vendor. The set ends with the Tin Men’s “The Darling of the Okra Strut” which, best I can tell, really has nothing to do with the mucilaginous vegetable. (However, it did get me thinking about whether okra are interstellar aliens! Afterall we call them “pods.”)

This week’s show also includes another set of Cajun music, thanks to Olympia-area producer and musician Calvin Johnson’s secret stash of collectible 45 rpm records. This time, I throw in a live recorded song by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys from Bill Boelens Festivals Acadiens 1991-1997.

The show’s first full set rocks with Cowboy Mouth’s early hit “Jenny Says” and The Radiators urging us to “Never Let Your Fire Go Out.” Later Tommy Malone sings “All Dressed Up,” the Honeypots perform “Witness”, Los Hombres Calientes does a send up of “George Porter” and Davis Rogan’s gives us his original song “Fly Away.” Davis, by the way, will be performing in Olympia on August 26 in a house concert. Message me to learn more about it. Thanks for tuning in.

Tiffany Pollack & Co. at the “Legendary” HiHo Lounge pre-COVID.

The smile beneath the mask, the festivals that we’ll miss

Six weeks into our Shelter in Place and this week’s show looks at the smiles behind our masks, the festivals we are missing and the ways we are coping. You can start it now as I share with you more details.

This show includes four more messages from New Orleans musicians – Tiffany Pollack, Charlie Halloran, Louie Ludwig and Noah Young. But the show starts with Shotgun Jazz Band’s “Smile” in recognition of the pleasant expressions that our cloth masks cover.

This weekend would be the start of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Also this weekend, in Olympia, we would normally hold our Spring Arts Walk and Procession of the Species. I don’t wish to diminish the significant economic aspects of community celebrations, but for me, Arts Walk, the Procession and other such events serve as a mirror where we can collectively see ourselves. There’s no way to virtually replicate that but I can try.

The first full set features three songs from New Orleans Jazz Fest Past — Flow Tribe performing in 2012, gospel rocker Raymond Myles in 1994 and a very special performance by The Radiator at the first Jazz Fest after Hurricane Katrina — another catastrophe where recovery was made more difficult by a less than competent federal emergency response.

Tiffany Pollack signs on at the 23 minute mark to introduce herself (formally an embalmer!) She and her cousin Eric Johanson knocked it out of the park with last year’s Blues in My Blood record. You’ll hear a couple tracks from that one and her jazz single “Comes Love.” Check out her shows on her Facebook page and YouTube channel every Monday and Friday starting at 6 p.m. Left Coast time or 8 p.m. New Orleans time.

Like all of us, I’m getting tired of drinking at home. I miss that wonderful randomness of going to a bar or club, seeing what I see and hearing what I hear. It’s kind of back to that community mirror thing where I feel a sense of belonging. Doc Souchon starts the next set with a drinking song, followed by Dwayne Dopsie‘s “Harry’s Creole Bar.” Taylor Smith, from a previous radio interview, talks about his neighborhood bar Horace’s where he and his band the Roamin’ Jasmine recorded their last record from which you’ll hear “I Can’t Believe You’re in Love with Me.” I finish with a less than savory bar ballad by Little Freddie King, “Mixed Bucket of Blood.”

The very active (when not Sheltered in Place) trombonist and bandleader Charlie Halloran joins us next at the 55 minute mark where he shares with us what he has been up to under the COVID restrictions. He introduces his latest record from his calypso group (Charlie Halloran and the Tropicales) from which you’ll hear two tracks. I also spin one from Charlie Halloran and the Quality 6.

New release by Sierra Green

The next set features tracks from new releases by Cowboy Mouth, Sierra Green & the Soul Machine and the New Orleans Nightcrawlers. Later, Noah Young joins the show to introduce his latest record by the band Slugger and you’ll hear “Take a Breath” featuring Ray Wimbly and Mykia Jovan. I also spin”Starkist” from Slugger’s previous release. The set is finished by a track from the new Jason Marsalis Live — just released by Basin Street Records.

Louie Ludwig first got my attention with his record I Got Nothin to Say. Later when most folks were still figuring out what had gone down during the 2016 election, he released the song and video “Troll Factory.” Now, Ludwig has turned his attentions more fully to film making and was working on a documentary about the New Orleans music recording history. However, as he explains in his comments on the show, the project has turned into a weekly video report focusing on the COVID-19 effects in New Orleans. His latest one is about the loss of the festival season.

There’s a bit more in the show but its nice to have some surprises. Please support these musicians and the others I’ve featured in previous shows. You can support me (emotionally) by subscribing to this free blog (go back to the top and look to the right).