Your 2015 New Orleans Music Buying Guide – Part 2

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 comes to Olympia
Seattle-based brass band Tubaluba released Champagne Sunday this year.

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 “mixtapesavailable 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.

dashriprock
Bill Davis fronting Dash Rip Rock, performing at the French Quarter Festival in April 2015.

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 Splinters does a good job of capturing the experience.

bonerama
Billy Iuso, on guitar, performing with Bonerama’s Mark Mullins (left) and Craig Klein during this year’s Freret Street Festival.

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
Galactic – (From Left) Jeff Mercurio, Ben Ellman, Dan Vogel, Jeff Raines and Stanton Moore.

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.

New Orleans is a homing beacon to musicians worldwide

If Taylor Smith was a moth, New Orleans would be the light.

Double Bass Player Taylor Smith found his bliss playing music in New Orleans.
Double Bass Player Taylor Smith found his bliss playing music in New Orleans.

And that light is shining bright for a lot of musicians, young and old, who have found their muse in New Orleans. The Roamin’ Jasmine‘s bandleader initially visited New Orleans as part of the ancient college ritual, Spring Break.

But fortunately, the music major managed to wander beyond the beer-chugging Bourbon Street scene to where the real magic happens. As a University of Miami senior, he had yet to find his musical niche in Florida so, as it has for generations before him, New Orleans proved to be both eye and ear opening.

Captivated by the scene, he and his roommate moved to New Orleans after graduation in 2010. He stayed for a year but then went looking for greener pastures, doing a couple of tours with bands and ending up in his hometown Boston.

“But I realized I wasn’t playing music that much. I came back to visit one time while I was living in Boston and thought why did I ever leave this. Every minute I was here, I was going to jam sessions, going to people’s houses and they’re having a campfire and playing tunes.  I even played on the streets a few times.”

The Roamin' Jasmine performing at Bacchanal. Taylor is on bass (left).
The Roamin’ Jasmine performing at Bacchanal. Taylor is on bass (left).

Smith returned to New Orleans in 2012 and soon after formed The Roamin’ Jasmine which plays regularly in New Orleans and is currently doing a tour in Alaska. Smith’s experience is not unique.

Throughout the years, musicians have been finding their way to the birthplace of Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Fats Domino and The Meters. Jon Cleary, who has mastered a wide range of New Orleans piano styles, was raised in England but took a one-way trip to the city as a young musician.

In 1995, Japanese blues guitar sensation June Yamagishi abandoned an established career to immigrate to New Orleans — much to the benefit of the Wild Magnolias and Papa Grows Funk. Matt Perrine, whose sousaphone and bass anchor countless New Orleans recordings, migrated from California to the city in 1992. Others, like guitarist/songwriter Alex McMurray and the founding members of Galactic, were college students (Tulane and Loyola respectively) who decided to stick around after graduation. University of New Orleans jazz program also has contributed a number of new residents as well.

Sisters Leah Song (left) and Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia lived and performed in New Orleans for seven years.
Sisters Leah Song (left) and Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia lived and performed in New Orleans for seven years.

The magnetic force of New Orleans seems to have only gotten stronger since Hurricane Katrina. Last week, I attended a Rising Appalachia concert where the two sisters that fronted the band referred often to the enriching years they spent in New Orleans following Katrina.

In my last visit to New Orleans, every musician I talked with (and most are delighted to chat) was from some other place. Pianist Bart Ramsay (Zazou City) has lived in the city a long time but hails from Chicago.  Another pianist was from New Jersey.  A saxophone player was from the Midwest. Everyone had a story about how they came to New Orleans and found their bliss.

Josh Wilson, whose Seattle-based band Tubaluba is heavily influenced by the New Orleans brass sound, did a pilgrimage to New Orleans specifically to improve his New Orleans piano skills.  He connected with Jelly Roll Morton specialist Tom McDermott and seriously considered moving to the city permanently.

But its more than just the professional milieu that is attractive. The daily infusion of tourists and the large number of clubs and venues provide a wealth of employment opportunities for musicians — allowing them to lead a reasonably normal life. They can catch their child’s soccer game in the afternoon, play a gig in the evening and sleep in their own bed that night.

“I’ve never been to any city where I’ve met so many working-class musicians. New Orleans is really nurturing in that way; the quality of life is very good,” Kristin Diable told American Songwriter magazine. Diable, Americana singer/songwriter, is from Baton Rouge but for a time she tried her luck in New York City. “Within a year of being in New Orleans, I was making 10 times more money than I ever made in New York City.” The influx of new talent is not without its controversy. Some have argued that newcomers don’t take the time to learn the history, culture and style of New Orleans music.

Congo Square is where slaves congregated on Sundays in 19th Century New Orleans and is considered where jazz was born.
Congo Square is where slaves congregated on Sundays in 19th Century New Orleans and is considered where jazz was born.

The debate raises the question of what is New Orleans music. Is it jazz, R&B, bounce, funk, roots, hip hop Mardi Gras Indian? Or is it all of the above and more. The lesson and legacy of Congo Square is that the city’s musical storehouse relies on its continued ability to welcome and nurture different styles.

So I’ll keep playing music from New Orleans whether or not you might think its New Orleans music. For this Monday’s show, I’ll emphasize music by those who made a conscious decision to make New Orleans their home. Oh yea, and I’ll have a little more of my interview with the effervescent Taylor Smith. (Whoops. Left the interview on the wrong computer. I’ll include with podcast and air it next week.)

Jazzfest, New Music and Tubaluba

I’m stealing an idea from my son, Riley, who uses Fridays to write about various loose ends for his progressive political blog.

So below are three items: Jazzfest lineup, great new music at KAOS and a heads up on my Monday interview.

splash_header_2015New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has announced its 2015 line up. As usual, the music is far from limited to jazz and offers some unique shows and musician pairings. I’ll provide more depth in a later post.  Right now, you need to know the festival is seven days stretched over 10, starting Friday April 24 and ending Sunday, May 3. Be sure to check the line up by day if you’re planning a trip.

While there’s some interesting headliners (e.g. Elton John and The Who), I recommend some of the harder to see local acts like: a reunion of the Radiators; Henry Butler recreating his 2014 album with Steve Bernstein and the Hot 9; a hip hop pairing of Juvenile and Mannie Fresh; Ivan Neville and Dumpstaphunk playing with his uncle, Art Neville; The Dirty Dozen Band; George Porter Jr. & the Runnin’ Pardners, and, best of all,  The Meters with all four founding members–worth the price of admission right there.

New Music in the KAOS Studio – I’m loving the music we’re getting in the studio from

There is lot to love about Lynn Drury’s new album, Come to My House.

New Orleans artists. Since writing about the 2014 releases (Part 1 and Part 2), we’ve received two CDs from Lynn Drury, including her latest one “Come To My House.”  I’m afraid I have a serious music crush on this earthy singer, guitarist, and songwriter. Check out “I Know You Want Me, Baby” and  you’ll know what I mean.

Paul Sanchez has been my hero since he achieved the herculean task of creating a musical out of Nine Lives — a non-fiction book by Dan Baum that unveils the diverse talents and strengths of New Orleans residents. His latest CD instills heart-warming, reflective feelings that are more entertaining and less expensive than therapy.  I’m looking forward to digging deeper into: The World Is Round – Everything that Ends Begins Again.

If you’re worried traditional New Orleans jazz is dying out, look no further than the Shotgun Jazz Band. It’s fourth album Yearning, carries you to Frenchmen Street with a solid mix of standards and less heard wonders.

Josh Wilson (green pants) will be on air with me on Monday talking about his Tubaluba's upcoming performance at Rhythm & Rye.
Josh Wilson (green pants) will be on air with me on Monday talking about his Tubaluba’s upcoming performance at Rhythm & Rye.

Tubaluba – Seattle’s answer to New Orleans brass bands – Josh Wilson, who plays the bass drum and keyboards for Seattle’s Tubaluba, will be on the phone with me during Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa this Monday (just after 11 a.m.). I caught Tubaluba at the 2013 Seattle Honkfest. The band members are clearly fans of New Orleans brass band music. Wilson even has a WWOZ sticker on his bass drum.  The interview will highlight the band’s upcoming performance in Olympia at Rhythm & Rye on January 24.

That’s your heads up and preview for my next show. Join me, won’t you?