Celebrating Birthday of Swamp Pop Pioneer

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.”

Thanks for tuning in.

A trip to French Quarter Fest and celebration of Johnny Dodds

In today’s show, we take an imaginary, real-time visit to French Quarter Festival happening right now and we celebrate the 126th anniversary of clarinetist Johnny Dodds’ birthday. Here’s the edited version of the show which you listen to while reading this.

IMG_1454Overshadowed by the older and more well-known New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which starts later in April, the French Quarter Festival packs over 300 music acts (roughly 1,700 musicians) into four days starting today.  Celebrating its 35th year, this free festival is the largest showcase of Louisiana musicians with stages scattered throughout the French Quarter. Some of the more well-known acts playing this year include Cyril Neville, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Irma Thomas, Jon Cleary, Little Freddie King, the Lost Bayou Ramblers,  and Amanda Shaw.

And while I do play Neville and the Lost Bayou Ramblers later on the show, I start the show with a real time experience. Through the magic of radio and with a vivid imagination, I take you directly to the French Quarter to the stages and play music by musicians who are performing in real time synchronized to the airing of my show (10 a.m. to noon on Thursdays). This requires precision math on my part since I have to convert the Central Standard Time New Orleans-based schedule to the Pacific Standard Time reality of my radio show.

We start by running over to catch the last song of the Panorama Jazz Band performance on the Big River Stage in Woldenberg Park, before heading back toward the Quarter on Decatur Street to hear Tuba Skinny playing on the Jack Daniels Stage.  And because we can run fast in radio life, we can haul butt over to the Hilton Tricentennial Stage to catch the Preservation All-Stars.

After a little break with showcasing other artists featured later in the festival, we go back to real time with Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue performing at the River Stage again. And then we dash to Tropical Isle Hand Grenade Stage to catch Alex McMurray. During this imaginary real-time tour of the first day of French Quarter Fest, we also hear Banu Gibson.

johhny dodds
Johnny Dodds was born on April 12. 1892 and was part of the first generation of jazz musicians in New Orleans.

Later in my show, I honor Johnny Dodds, a first generation jazz musician who performed with Joe “King” Oliver. He and his younger brother, the drummer Warren “Baby” Dodds were part of Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven.  In honor of his birthday (April 12, 1892), this show dives into two versions of the same song that feature dual solos by Dodds.  The songs have different titles and different release dates though they were recorded back to back by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven.

S.O.L. Blues and Low Gully Blues feature Armstrong and Johnny Dodds at their peak, doing technically difficult and brilliant solos. S.O.L. Blues was recorded on May 13, 1927 in Chicago for Okeh records but was not released until Columbia Records got a hold of the collection 15 years later. The original release version went under the title of Gully Low Blues and was recorded the next day, May 14.  Both versions have their merits but I play them because I love the amazing tempo shift that Dodds pulls of during his solo. For more on this, check out Ricky Riccardi’s blog.  I also play a favorite, Dippermouth Blues, recorded by  King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in April 1923, because it contains a famous Dodds solo.

I’ve got other fun stuff on this show including Dana Abbott, Yvette Landry, the Subdudes and Eric Lindell, just to name a few.  Thank you for reading and listening. Please consider subscribing.

Your 2017 New Orleans Music Buying Guide, Part 1

Mardi Gras dot background.This is my fourth annual Buying Guide to encourage you to give the gift of music. To hear the music click on this week’s show and then read about it below. (Here’s Part 2 of the guide).

Links to all the bands are provided so you can purchase from the source. There’s no pecking order to my presentation (I’ll present my top 10 at the end of the month).  Also, while there is a Part 2 coming, this list is far from comprehensive. Let me know if I’ve left something out you like.

boneramaBonerama -Trombone Shorty was 12-years-old when two trombonists from Harry Connick Jr.’s band decided to move to the front of the stage and create the brass-funk-rock group, Bonerama. With their seventh release, Hot Like Fire, Craig Klein and Mark Mullins joined by a third trombonist, a sousaphone, guitar and drums, are clearly in their element jamming on original tunes as well as a Radiohead cover and Allen Toussaint’s Basic Lady.  Learn more about this cool band, check out my interview with Klein and Mullins.

Stanton Moore  – One of the best drummers in the business, Moore pulled together an all-star cast (Trombone Shorty, Nicholas Payton, Maceo Parker, Donald Harrison Jr. and Cyril Neville to name a few) in paying homage to Allen Toussaint with With You In Mind. Whether you like Toussaint or not (what?!), you’re going to dig this album from “Here Come the Girls” with Trombone Shorty  to Toussaint’s autobiographical “Southern Nights” with Wendell Pierce reading, not singing, the lyrics.

The Deslondes   – The band’s second release, Hurry Home, solidifies the Deslondes reputation as the premiere example of the New Orleans Americana scene. Despite its title, the album takes its time, meandering 13 songs with lyrics that linger in your mind and entice you to sing along.  Why not? Four of the five band members sing as well.

hot 8 on the spot.jpgHot 8 Brass Band – A good brass band can get even the most stiff-limbed old man moving his hips. But what makes this venerable New Orleans brass band special is its great solos, unexpected twists and those sneaky covers you don’t recognize at first.  From the band that has survived to see it all and gave the world the brass version of “Sexual Healing” comes On The Spot — essential to any brass band fan collection.

Tuba Skinny – With its eighth release Tupelo Pine, Tuba Skinny has moved from the streets into institutional status in New Orleans. This band has a deep repertoire of Prohibition and Depression era tunes performed with entertaining and reverent orchestration.  If you’re looking for something special for a traditional jazz fan, you can’t go wrong with this band that has won its audience one street performance at a time. See Pops Coffee for a far more detailed review.

Smoking Time Jazz Club –  Another street-hardened traditional jazz band  that takes you back to another era, Smoking Time has a sultry quality fueled by the band’s mission statement embedded in its name The band started  2017 with a new release Ain’t We Fortunate and finishes the year with Take Your Time and Fly —  they’re both excellent but the second one is strengthened by Sarah Peterson’s vocals.

erica-falls-home-grownErica Falls – With HomeGrown, Erica Falls has demonstrated that hard work, grit and talent can pay off. At least it does for the listener.  While this is her first full release, Fall has paid her dues singing with Allen Toussaint and Galactic and providing backing vocals in the studio for Irma Thomas, Dr. John, Marva Wright, and Bobby Charles — not to mention adding some sweet vocals to two tracks on Rebirth Brass Band’s last release.  But HomeGrown is all hers — eight of the songs are her own composition. She’s soulful, funky, sweet. . .yea, I’m in love.

Naughty Professor   – While Identity does not have a title track, its first two songs go right to the heart of the issue. The rhythmic “Mirror,” choruses with “Give people what they want”  while the second track advises to “be what you want, do what you feel.” And that’s exactly how this jazz-funk sextet has rolled ever since emerging from the New Orlean’s Loyola jazz program in 2010. The band skillfully flows through soul, R&B and hip hop. But underlying it all is a strong jazz sensibility that keeps its fresh and unique. Now that’s an identity.

New Orleans Jazz Vipers  – If you’ve visited Frenchmen Street, chances are you’ve had the opportunity to see the Vipers live. The swing jazz band has been a fixture there long before tourist knew to direct their cab to Frenchmen. “Live & Viperizin” captures the band at its most enigmatic with danceable numbers designed to draw you into the nightclub, except now you can get that live feeling at home.

Jon Cleary – With Live at Chickie Wah Wah, this master piano player follows up his grammy-award winning album featuring his funk group Monster Gentleman with an intimate solo performance recorded live at one of his favorite hometown venues.  It’s just Cleary, his voice and his piano playing some of his favorites, including two from GoGo Juice, as well as some tasty R&B and soul numbers made famous by Smiley Lewis, Jessie Hill and Jessie Belvin.  The only way you can beat this release is if you really catch him live at Chickie Wah Wah.

Sonny Landreth – This electric slide guitar master delivers a much-anticipated live acoustic set performed in his hometown Lafayette and for lagniappe, a second live set with his electric guitar.  If you are fan of this tireless touring professional (he’s in Deming for the Mt. Baker Blues Festival in August 2018), you’ve heard these songs before but not like this. If not, Live at Lafayette is a great way to become a new fan.

debbie-davie-josh-paxton-vices-and-virtuesDebbie Davis and Josh Paxton – There is a magic that derives from the alchemy of a pianist and vocalist who have performed regularly, particularly if they use their familiarity to push each other.  Davis is a lifelong singer who, in addition to her own projects, performs with The Pfister Sisters.  Josh Paxton, who is part of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, is clearly capable of tearing up the keyboards on inspired solos but lovingly wraps his performance around Davis’ voice.  Vices and Virtues puts you in the room with these two creative professionals.

Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes – The band’s website describes it best: “their irreverent funk is cut with rock riffs, a Gypsy/Klezmer flare, a Latin tinge courtesy of a hard hitting horn section, and a sense of humor.” Yea, you right.  And Sketch is the band’s best release yet.  I’m still pissed I can’t play “Fine Time” on the radio but I’ve definitely been playing the dozen other tracks that deliver soul, funk, reggae, and a power violin rock thing (“The Dragon”) that has garnered listener phone calls to the studio.

John Mooney –  John Mooney is a hard act to catch. He has no website and his Facebook and wikipedia pages don’t list his latest CD,  Truth of the Matter. But don’t let that stop you. Mooney’s voice and guitar playing are top flight but its the arrangements and the support he gets that should elevate this release to your shopping list. Ten songs with eight originals.  Most are backed up by a rotating cast of star power keyboardists (Jon Cleary, John Gros and C.R. Gruver) usually on a Hammond B-3.  And his use of male background singers on “Deal with Love” and “Push & Shove” enhance an already strong soul feeling to Mooney’s music.

Egg Yolk Jubilee – To celebrate 20 years of performing, Egg Yolk Jubilee has compiled a retrospective of a dozen previously released songs and three new ones in Crux of the Yolk.  Yes, they are frenetic, irreverent, loud and pretty damn funny, but they also rock. The band provided the brass on Jello Biafra’s New Orleans Raunch All-Stars  release a few years back.  If you have a Frank Zappa fan on your shopping list, particularly if they like horns, literally blow them away with Egg Yolk Jubilee.

Sweet Crude   –  Like many indie acts from New Orleans, Sweet Crude’s music may not make its hometown roots obvious.  Well, except that they sing a lot of their songs in French.  “We are joining a small but fervent group of young Louisianians engaged in keeping the language relevant via art,” announces the band’s website. Soaring vocals (Mon Esprit in particular) and world rhythms place the band’s first full release, Creatures, above the large stack of alternative rock releases we get in the station.

Stay tuned for Part 2 and catch my show on Thursday.

Careless Love follows carefree path to our ears

“Oh love, oh careless love, you’ve fly to my head like wine.”

Words of caution during this season of Valentine? Perhaps. But it’s also the opening to another enigmatic traditional song with uncertain origins that has become a New Orleans standard.

Like St. James Infirmary, Careless Love took its form from the 19th Century folk tradition. The song didn’t get locked down until it was recorded in the 1920’s, most notably Bessie Smith’s recording with Louis Armstrong on cornet. Even since then, the song’s lyrics have been malleable, adapted to jazz, blues and even bluegrass.

Buddy Bolden, holding the cornet standing in back, was never recorded but he is likely the reason why Careless Love is New Orleans standard today.
Buddy Bolden, holding the cornet standing in back, was never recorded but he is likely the reason why Careless Love is a New Orleans standard today.

The song’s strong association to New Orleans is most likely the result of Buddy Bolden who performed the song regularly at the turn of the 20th Century.  Buddy Bolden and his band performed a more bluesier and improvised form of ragtime and inspired jazz pioneers such as Kid Ory, King Oliver and Bunk Johnson who followed.

While there are no recordings of Bolden and his band, there are literally hundreds of other recorded versions of Careless Love, including those by Pete Seeger, Janis Joplin, Lead Belly, Madeleine Peyroux, Big Joe Turner, Nat King Cole, and Ray Charles.

Contemporary New Orleans artists, such Miss Sophie Lee, carry on the New Orleans tradition of performing Careless Love.
Contemporary New Orleans artists, such as Miss Sophie Lee, carry on the New Orleans tradition of performing Careless Love.

As for New Orleans musicians, Careless Love has been recorded by Kid Ory,  Sidney Bechet,  Bunk Johnson,  Dr. John,  Fats Domino, Snooks Eaglin, Champion Jack Dupree and the Preservation Hall Band.

Even today, you’ll hear it played on the streets (Tuba Skinny) and in the nightclubs of New Orleans (Miss Sophie Lee at the Spotted Cat).

And you’ll hear it on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa (probably more than once) this Monday.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

2014 New Orleans Music Buyer’s Guide – Part 2

Last week, I did a summary of 2014 New Orleans releases. The list got so long, I needed a second round. I’m not organized enough to put them in any order so there’s no shame, as will be proven when you read below, in being included in this second installment.

By the way, this is music I play on Sweeney’s GumboYaYa. (And I’d be thankful if you subscribed – Upper Right Corner )

You'll want to Linger Til Dawn with Debbie Davis' latest CD
You’ll want to Linger Til Dawn with Debbie Davis’ latest CD

Debbie Davis and the MesmerizersLinger Til Dawn showcases a voice that ranges from Broadway to Bawdy.. Her second CD offers a satisfying selection of songs backed up by accomplished musicians- Joshua Paxton on piano, Alex McMurray on guitar and Bonerama member Matt Perrine on sousaphone. Their interpretation of The Kink’s “Sunny Afternoon” is inspired.

Tommy Malone – His third solo album since the Subdudes, Poor Boy, delivers 11 more smooth tunes with Malone’s unique blend of blues and folk. A talented guitarist and songwriter (he does only one cover), Malone has a voice that’s easy to make friends with.

Nicholas Payton  – Numbers is what you make of it. You could call it chill music, but it’s far too engaging to allow your mind wander. I’ll get out of the way and repeat Payton’s description: “It’s a bed of sex wrapped in 500-thread count sonic sheets.”  Get that?

Fo ‘Reel Heavy Water bounced between our blues and soul shelf this year on the strength of Johnny Neel’s funky organ and C.P. Love’s vocals. The CD really takes off for me when bandleader Mark Domizio cuts loose with his guitar, particularly on Shake N Bake.

Dr. John – The Night Tripper left nothing to chance with this tribute to the immortal one, Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch Terence Blanchard, James Andrews, Nicholas Payton (see above), and Wendell Brunious supply the chops with some welcome guest vocalists contributing a diverse array of interpretations of Louis Armstrong standards. You might not like every track but you won’t ask for your money back either.

The Roamin’ Jasmine – Another talented swing jazz band forged from the busking scene of New Orleans.  In its self-titled album, this merry band of six musicians at times conjure up an exotic polyphonic sound, while staying true to the NOLA tradition of strong solos and swaggering vocals.

Davis Rogan puts its all out there in his latest. His love, frustrations and of course his view of the world.
Davis Rogan puts its all out there in his latest. His love, frustrations and of course his view of the world.

Davis Rogan –  Davis Ex Machina is distinctly a New Orleans album–and not just because its performed with journeyman NOLA musicians. Mr. Rogan is no longer a school teacher struggling from performing at night and no longer the inspiration for a character of an HBO show.  But he does continue to write songs that take you deeply into his hometown, while still connecting to timely broader messages. Case in point, “Big Treezy” appears to be a rant on the dilution of  the”New Orleans” he loves yet ends as an allegory for immigration. Or maybe that’s just me reading too much between the lines. You tell me.

The Soul Rebels – No new CD this year BUT this kick-ass funk, R&B, hip-hop brass band has been offering a weekly track online for free throughout the fall, including three recorded this year–a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” (Week 5) , a mash up of its “Nothin But A Party”and Outkast’s “Spottieottiedopaliscious” (Week 6), and a never played again arrangement of Talib Kweli’s “I Try” (Week 7). Another reason not to want winter to begin.

Gal Holiday & The Honky Tonk Revue – Gal Holiday, the alter ego of singer Vanessa Niemann, fronts a genuine country dance hall band — part honky tonk, part redneck soul and solidly swing. They’re on my list to see live next time I’m in New Orleans, meanwhile I’ll keep enjoying Last to Leave, the band’s third CD.

Kelcy Mae – What do you call an album that wraps pop, country, and blues with solid arrangements, soulful lyrics and strong vocals? Before I started my New Orleans show, I was playing Half Light frequently on my open format morning show, without knowing she was a Louisiana native. crafting music from her home in New Orleans with the able assistance of Alex McMurray and Sam Cordts.

Benny Tuner delivers a solid blues and soul collection with his latest release, Journey.
Benny Tuner delivers a solid blues and soul collection with his latest release, Journey.

Benny Turner  –  Benny’s the real thing. He’s played guitar with his brother’s band, Freddy King and he was the band leader for Marva Wright for 20 years. With his third release, Journey, Turner plays and sings quintessential blues guaranteed to satisfy the music fan on your list.

Tuba Skinny – Owl Call Blues is a testament to this street band’s ability to find archival gems and make them fresh while also producing original music that sounds old-timey.  They’ve toured the world but you can still catch them busking in the Quarter.

Gregory GoodSavage Lands offers original and traditional songs in a Woody Guthrie wanderlust style that places you at the campfire with Good singing and playing guitar as if he were still a roustabout in his home state North Dakota. Now in New Orleans, his new album joins Milo Records’ growing stable of Americana and traditional folk recordings.

The Best of Eric Lindell” will only be available digitally starting December 16. “Live in Space.”

Even with this sequel, I’m far from covering everyone. For a more complete list, here’s Offbeat Magazine listing of 2014 releases by Louisiana artists.

I’ll be playing from this list and last week’s list on the next Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa, Monday, December 15. Also, I’d appreciate if you subscribed to this blog (see upper right column).

Street music can be magical if you let yourself enjoy it

There is an element of excitement when listening to a street performer–it creates an unplanned moment that forces me to choose between carrying on with whatever I was doing or allow for the aural equivalent of “stop and smell the roses.”

The moment can be magical or quite painful depending on the quality of busker. The beauty of a street performance is you can vote with your feet but if your feet don’t move, you should definitely vote with your wallet.

On Monday’s show, I’ll feature musicians who have played on the streets of New Orleans.

Artesian Rumble Arkestra creates street music magic for Olympia.

But before I go there, let me say that I’ve had many wonderful moments, listening to musicians on sidewalks and parks in Seattle and Olympia. A favorite street event is HonkFest West which has featured one of Olympia’s finest purveyors of street magic, Artesian Rumble Arkestra.

But it’s hard to compete with a 300-year-old city that gave birth to Jazz. New Orleans has a rich tradition of buskers which attracts musicians from all over the world. The city even seems to have its own apprenticeship program.

The wandering Alynda Lee Segarra had not played an instrument until she found a discarded washboard in New Orleans and settled into a routine of playing with street performers. She found her niche, learned banjo and guitar, started singing and wrote her own songs. Now with four major release albums, the singer/songwriter of Hurray for the Riff Raff is playing in venues all over the world.

Alynda Lee Segarra began her music career on the streets of New Orleans. As part of Hurray for the Riff Raff, she now plays larger venues.

Tuba Skinny, a band that plays rag time and traditional jazz, is touring Australia right now but when home, the band often plays on Royal Street.

Meschiya Lake also played with various street bands including Loose Marbles but moved to the night clubs when she formed The Little Big Horns Jazz Band.  You can usually catch her amazing act live at Chickie Wah Wah on Canal Street on Wednesday nights.

The most widely known street performers of New Orleans are the brass bands. With a long tradition of parades, second lines and musical funeral processions, the city has developed a very strong community of brass musicians and bands.  Treme Brass Band and the Rebirth Brass Bands tour the world but can still be found on occasion playing on the streets of New Orleans. The street provides a great place for budding musicians to learn their craft and over time achieve success as evidenced by the Baby Boyz Brass Band and TBC Brass Band.

Grandpa Elliott (Elliott Small) and Stony B (Michael Stone) performing at a corner on Royal Street.
Grandpa Elliott (Elliott Small) and Stony B (Michael Stone) performing at a corner on Royal Street.

One of my favorite street music moments occurred when I was walking along Royal Street in April 2006. The guitarist sounded a little like Robert Cray and the harmonica player had a deep bass voice and looked distinctive in his thick grey beard, farmer overalls, straw hat and sunglasses with one lens punched out.  I listened for several songs and talked with them between songs. I bought their CD and had them sign it—a practice I still do with street performers I enjoy.  Stoney B, the guitarist, has since moved to San Diego where he and his band play regularly at festivals and night clubs. Grandpa Elliott, the harmonica player, became famous as a regular with the Playing For Change band and recordings.

It’s easy to find street musicians while in New Orleans. But you don’t have to visit NOLA, to hear them. I’ll be featuring several sets of music from NOLA street performers, Monday, October 6, starting at 10 a.m. on KAOS, 89.3 FM.  We stream.