Based on the premise that the true Home of the Groove, at least on the North American landmass, is the irreplaceable musical and cultural nexus, New Orleans, Louisiana, this audioblog features rare, hard to find, often forgotten, vintage New Orleans-related R&B and funk records with commentary. Some general knowledge of N.O. music is helpful here, but not required to get your groove on.
Former resident of Memphis, TN, where I did a volunteer weekly radio show called "New Orleans: Under the Influence" from 1988 to 2004 on WEVL 89.9 FM. I've been collecting this kind of music (& others) much longer.
Individual audio files are accessible for a limited time after posting. Link to access audio will be on the song title. No link? Audio's outa here.
When you hit a song link, a player streams it in a separate window. For other listening options, right click on the player when it comes up.
Note: Audio files on this blog are not high resolution (usually 128k) and are posted for reference purposes only. Please do not link directly to them. Use caution if booty shaking while operating vehicles or heavy machinery. Whenever possible, please buy music by these artists!!!
Until further notice, the separate streaming site, HOTG Internet Radio, is no longer operational, as the licensing provider went under. I hope to re-active streaming of my archives at the site at some point, and will post notice on the main page at the time.
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QUOTES OF NOTE:
"New Orleans is of such key importance to American music because historical factors combined to make it the strongest center of
African musical practice in the United States, and, cliches aside, that practice really did travel up the Mississippi and did
spread overland." - Ned Sublette, from Cuba And Its Music
"I heard a group called Huey Smith & the Clowns, out of New Orleans. Now this is where funk was really created! That's where funk originated....
I couldn't understand how to do it, so this drummer from Huey Smith's band [Hungry Williams] showed me how to play [it]." - Clayton Fillyau,
drummer for Etta James and James Brown, on the origins of the 'James Brown Beat', in The Great Drummers Of R&B, Funk & Soul, interviewed by Jim Payne.
"A lot of those New Orleans drummers would come through, and I got a lot of stuff from those guys....Tenoo [Coleman] was...as funky as any of them.....
I learned some of that funk by listening to Tenoo." - John 'Jabo'Starks, drummer for Bobby Bland and James Brown, to Jim Payne as above.
"At the risk of sounding egotistical, a lot of the broken up stuff that these guys are playing now stems from the stuff that I had started doing." -
Earl Palmer, on his early days drumming with Dave Bartholomew's band, to Jim Payne, as above.
"With funk, it's almost more what you don't play than what you do play. I like those long silences between riffs,
I like the empty spaces. Those empty spaces, when you stop and let the groove wash all over you, make the
difference between fake funk and real funk." -Art Neville in The Brothers Neville
"Thank the good Lord for the funk musicians." -Jon Cleary ("Pin Your Spin")
"Without New Orleans, there would be no America." -Keith Frazier, Rebirth Brass Band, 2005.
"....don't be fooled. This city is deeply wounded. I'd say it's like an amputee
with phantom memory." -David Freedman, WWOZ, post-Katrina.
"If there was no New Orleans, America would just be a bunch of free people dying of boredom."
-Judy Deck, in an e-mail to Chris Rose at the Times-Picayune
"I'm not finished!" - Wardell Quezergue's final comment of the night after accepting the 2008 Best of the Beat
Lifetime Achievement In Music Award from Offbeat
"I discovered New Orleans along the way, and that made a big difference - It loosened me up." - Richie Hayward, the late drummer for Little Feat.
"National Funk Congress Deadlocked On Get Up/Get Down Issue" -The Onion
"Find The Thing You're Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life" -ditto dat
As I mentioned in my recent CD reviews, or as you may have otherwise learned by now, one of New Orleans best drummers,Wilbert 'Junkyard Dog' Arnold, passed away the day after Christmas. A long-time member of Walter 'Wolfman' Washington's Roadmasters and one of the founding members of the New Orleans Rhythm Conspiracy, he was only 53 and will be missed, not just by those who knew and loved him, but by all who were moved by his exemplary musicianship.
One of many uniquely endowed New Orleans drummers, the Junkyard Dog's grooves were infectious, his technique remarkable. He deftly balanced the seeming contradiction in great funk drum work, exercising the creative freedom to spontaneously and continually recalibrate the beats in the free-flowing moment while still maintaining precise time management, expressing the essential feel of the music and putting it all in the perfect pocket for the other instrumental and vocal rhythmic elements to lock into.
It's impossible to sum talent like his up in a couple of performances; but I wanted to put up something to honor his memory. So, I picked these tunes not only because they display Arnold's talents fairly early on, before he was even called Junkyard Dog, but also because I've got 'em on vinyl; and this is pretty much a vinyl blog, after all. The rest of his work with the Roadmasters and beyond in my archives is on CD. If you are not already familiar with the JYD or the Roadmasters, I encourage you topursue their recordings. But, for now, these two cuts should do quite nicely
"You Got Me Worried" (W. Washington) Walter Wolfman Washington and Solar System, Hep' Me 161, 1981 (Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio)
Both sides of this single, "You got Me Worried" and the instrumental "Good And Juicy", also appeared onWolfman Washington's first LP, Leader Of The Pack, released on Senator Jones' Hep' Me label in the early 1980s. As you'll note, his band was called Solar System then; and they had been backing Johnny Adams regularly for a number of years. Although Wolfman had recorded a few 45s for Eddie Bo back around the start of the 1970s, he had mainly been a guitarist and bandleader working behind other artists most of this career. The LP was his first mature move towards breaking out with his own pack; and the Junkyard Dog was riding shotgun for that move.
Aspiring drummer Wilbert Arnold had become a tentative member of Wolfman's band as a teenager in the mid-1970s, starting off playing tambourine. Over the next few years, he took over the drum chair; and, by the time of this release, his well-developed skills allowed him to effectively mix it up. Especially note the kick drum virtuosity displayed on this tune, which he really ratcheted-up about two minutes in, under the guitar solo, and getting increasingly more tricked-out along the way. The take could have been more sympathetically recorded; but the entire band cooked nonetheless. Sitting in on keyboards was Sam Henry (formerly of the Soul Machine), who was a regular session player at Sea-Saint Studios where this was recorded; and he also arranged the horns. Washington, who learned a lot about delivery from his mentor, Johnny Adams, over the years they performed together, really dug into his vocal, getting worked up enough to let loose with some soul-shaking screams as the song intensified near the close.
Nothing much happened commercially with either this single or the LP at that point; but it was re-issued several times, on vinyl and CD, under various names, after Wolfman became better known. It definitely served its purpose in allowing Wolfman and the band to step out. When Rounder signed Johnny Adams a few years later, Washington and Arnold played the sessions for his first LP/CD release on the label, 1984'sFrom The Heart, an excellent comeback record that helped kickstart a general New Orleans musical renaissance.
"Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home" (Hal Jackson, Jr/Timothy Matthews)Johnny Adams, from From the Heart, Rounder, 1984 (Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio)
This was the lead-off track from Adams' first of many albums for Rounder and producer Scott Billington, an association what would last until the singer's death 14 years later. As originally done byAnn Peeblesin the early 1970s on Hi Records out of Memphis with the legendary Willie Mitchell producing, the song was funky in its own right, but more low-down and brooding. Billington, Washington and Adams, with the exemplary assistance of Wilbert Arnold, picked up the pace and funkified it even further, giving it a more uptown, complex arrangement that was maybe a little too bright for the dark lyrics. Although I've got to give the nod to the original for better matching the mood (beside my being a stone Ann Peebles fan from way back), this recasting was still an impressive showcase for all concerned, including future Roadmasters Craig Wroten on keys and George Jackson, Jr. on congas, plus bassist Darrel Francis, Sr, and the legendary Alvin 'Red' Tyler, as part of the fine horn section with fellow saxman Bill Samuels and trumpeter Terry Tulos. As always, Adams' vocal was topnotch, a perfect combination of soulful grit, controlled intensity, finesse and fluidity.
Around the time this LP was cut, Billington began discussing a solo project for Washington; and, by 1986, Wolfman had signed with Rounder himself. For unknown reasons, the Junkyard Dog was not on his first Rounder release that year, Wolf Tracks; but, soon thereafter, Washington had formulated the Roadmasters with Arnold and bassist Jack Cruz anchoring the rhythm section. They would remain an integral part of his stage band and every other album he made until 1998. After that, due mainly to Wolfman's personal demons, the band went a decade without a legitimate release. Unfortunately, Arnold's health began to deteriorate a few years ago; and he did not play with the Roadmasters regularly, nor was he able to make the sessions for Wolfman's 2008 comeback CD, Doin' The Funky Thing (reviewed here earlier this month). But he, his wife, Marilyn (Barbarin), and Cruz, did start another music project in the last couple of years, New Orleans Rhythm Conspiracy, making the CD, Dancin' Ground, which I also just reviewed. It has become the JYD's funky epitaph.
Having cut his teeth playing with Washington, backing Adams while still young, the Junkyard Dog had the opportunity to be schooled on music that had compelling dynamics, sophisticated changes, and intricate arrangements, allowing him to take his feel for funk far beyond standard-issue linear grooving. In their prime, the Roadmasters' fusion of soul, blues, jazz and funk could not be touched; and the JYD's playing was the catalyst, at once spellbinding and undeniably danceable. I'm sure those of you who you got to see him in his element at some point will agree. If you are new to this music, I encourage you to explore, listen to his session work on the first few Johnny Adams albums for Rounder, plus, of course, his consummate work backing the Wolfman. You'll see why this cat deserved his reputation as one badass dog.
Twelfth Nigh has just passed last week.Carnival seasonis upon us. King cakes are in the stores. The parties have started. Costumes are being put together. The rolling krewes are making their final parade preps. And the Indians are practicing their music and moves in corner bars, and sewing feverishly to finish their new suits. As thoughts turn more and more to February 24, 2009, what better time to pull out my battered copy of a record that I think is a significant, but overlooked example of New Orleans' finest seasonal music, produced by a one-of-a-kind local wonder, Eddie Bo.
From his earliest days in the music business,Eddie Bo, has often been a creative provocateur: hip, innovative, crafty, surprising, funny, willing to take chances, hard to figure, and at least a little wacko - in varying combinations or sometimes all at once. Having cut countless recording projects on himself and others, he has been a fascinating and essential contributor to the scene in New Orleans for over 50 years and counting. Despite his best efforts to make hit records, he has been a bit too eccentric for the mainstream and has pretty much operated on the fringe, limited by slim-to-none budgets and and various business ventures gone bust. In the face of it all, he has insisted on following his often unique musical and rhythmic instincts, and had faith in his own ears. Despite the spotty commercial track record, from the beginning Eddie has been a driving force in bringing what we now call funk into the popular local music of his day. It's just how he heard things, the musicians (particularly the drummers) he used on sessions, and the way he naturally expressed himself. He wasn't on a mission - he was just trying to make a few bucks in the popular music business with his impressive talents. The rhythms of the mean and festive city streets evolved into funk and filtered into popular New Orleans music from various sources over time; but Bo really did help channel it at key points in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s - and I hope he ain't done yet. If you've been reading and listening here or the webcast stream for a while, or if you do a search through my posts, you'll know how much I enjoy and respect what the impish Mr. Bocage has wrought, even though his ways are mysterious at times.
Consider the following remarkable 45 Bo helped to birth. It's a hard to categorize hybrid, offering a groundbreaking representation, for the day, of another side of Carnival time, the seldom seen or heard shadow Mardi Gras. In neighborhoods not on the regular parade routes or near any tourist spots, African-American men have elaborately masked as Indians year after year, taking their ritual celebrations and confrontations out onto pavement battlegrounds to the beating of drums, tambourines, cowbells and bottles, their call and response songs in a strange tongue inducing both fright and delight in uninitiated bystanders.
"Boogaloo Mardi Gras, Part 2" (L. Clark - P. Boudreaux - R. Williams) The Bobby Willams Group, Capitol 2201, 1968 (Tune in to HOTG Internet Radio)
I always played like that, I had a lot of criticism 'cause I didn't keep a straight backbeat, I just dealt with the New Orleans feel - the bouncy beat.- Bobby Williams, from an interview with Rick Coleman and Dr. Daddy-O for WYLD AM New Orleans, as quoted by Martin Lawrie on the soulgeneration Eddie Bo Discography.
There is a line of recorded songs through the last century that have incorporated bits of the Mardi Gras Indians' musical culture for the sake of novelty and/or local fascination with the once elusive phenomenon. In his essential web article,"Mardi Gras Indian Recordings", roots historian and writer John Sinclair traces the earliest such record as far back as 1927. In the mid-1940s, guitarist/vocalist Danny Barker set Indian chants heard on the streets to syncopated creole jazz accompaniment, with just guitar, piano, bass, and drums instrumentation. I'm not sure if his songs were ever commercially issued at the time - though Sinclair says Barker tried unsuccessfully to put them onto jukeboxes in the 1950s in New Orleans. I first heard the recordings tacked onto a 2000 GHB CD, Jazz A'La Creole, of music by the Baby Dodds Trio (though Dodds was not the drummer on the four Indian-inspired numbers!). Next came Dave Bartholomew's classic "Carnival Day"done for Imperial in February, 1950, highly percussive, thanks to Earl Palmer's primal foot and stick work, with Dave spouting various Indian words and phrases for effect as he attempted to capture the Mardi Gras atmosphere. Probably one of the best known R&B songs of the genre is"Jock-A-Mo"by Sugarboy (James Crawford) and his Cane Cutters , released during the 1954 Carnival season on Checker Records, and more commonly called "Iko Iko ", a variant of which (just voices and percussion) was done by the Dixie Cups in 1965 for Red Bird , by Dr. John on his 1972GumboLP, and by countless cover bands. Let's also not forget Huey 'Piano' Smith and the Clowns' fun-loving party romp, "Don't You Know Yockomo", from 1958 on Ace, or Earl King and Professor Longhair on the wonderfully polyrhythmic and idiosyncratic 1964 novelty item,"Big Chief", and, of course, the Meters' highly funkified "Hey Pocky A-Way" from their 1974 Reprise LP,Rejuvenation. Some of these are perennial Carnival favorites; and all are attempts to capture a little bit of the Mardi Gras Indian magic in a popular song.
As far as I am concerned, "Boogaloo Mardi Gras" should always be included in that number. Even though it is decidedly less familiar than most of the others, even to locals, this two-parter from 1968 stands apart as one of the best of the breed. Neither quite funk, R&B, rock, nor even boogaloo, Williams' energy-infused perpetual groove machine rolls, tumbles and syncopates like a hyper-kinetic marching drumline done gone native, with bass and guitar furiously pumping and chopping to keep up. Half the song is sweetened by horns that start out sounding vaguely tribal, and further enlivened by 16 bars of very convincing Indian-style singing, capturing the feel of their fire and spirit, instead of just copping some random references to their language or culture. I don't know for sure who did the vocals; but I assume it was the members of the Bobby Williams' Group. Were some of them also part of an Indian gang? Who knows. What's for sure is that this is one of the most full-tilt, drum-heavy songs to ever invoke the Mardi Gras Indians, and the wildest Carnival record up to that point. A few years later, in 1970, the game would be changed forever, when Quint Davis first put the Wild Magnolias together with Wilie Tee and the Gaturs. From there,Big Chief Bo Dollisand his gang soon became recording artists, collaborating with Tee and other local musicians to fully and forever fuse Mardi Gras Indian music and funk. But, as usual, I get ahead of myself. . . .
According to Martin Lawrie on hisEddie Bo Discography, which is based on his vast Bo-related vinyl holdings and numerous discussions with the man himself, Eddie used the Bobby Williams Group as a rhythm section frequently when he was working as a producer, arranger, songwriter, talent scout and recording artist for Joe Banashak's Seven B label in the mid-1960s. Williams played drums, Louis 'June' Clark was on guitar, and Paul Boudreaux was the bassist. Probably their best known work was backing Bo on "Lover And A Friend" from Seven B single 7017, his duet with Inez Cheatham (one of the members of the Triple Souls background trio) . A compelling dance record on the strength of Williams' exceptionally funky beats, "Lover And A Friend" became a hit locally in 1968 and has become a favorite on the UK Northern Soul Scene since, having been compiled numerous times over the years. It's success in the New Orleans area drew the attention of Capitol Records, which negotiated to lease the single from Banashak and issued it nationally that year, where it surprisingly failed to garner similar response in other markets.
As part of the deal with Capitol, Banashak also got them to take the next Seven B single (7018) released after "Lover And A Friend", which was "Boogaloo Mardi Gras" by Williams and his band. As much as I love this record, I don't know what Capitol thought they would do with it - they must have really, really wanted the Bo/Cheatham single. Maybe they were told that Mardi Gras-related records could sell well locally during Carnival, and do repeat business in succeeding years, like classics such as "Mardi Gras Mambo", "Carnival Time", and "Big Chief". Whatever the reason, Capitol re-released it, too, as evidenced by this stock copy, though it obviously did not become the hot-selling party record of that or any season, as there were several things working against it.
First of all, both the Seven B and Capitol issues of "Boogaloo Mardi Gras" were sequenced incorrectly. The bare-bones purely instrumental second segment of the song was labeled "Part 1", instead of the full production initial segment with horns and vocals, which wound up on the back side, shown as "Part 2". It's obvious when you listen to "Part 2" that it was the beginning of the song, as it has an introductory riff and ends with a fade-out, while "Part 1" begins with a fade-up where the other part ended. Secondly, Eddie Bo had the "Part 1" arrangement break down to just drums, bass and guitar, continuing their frenzied playing alone for two minutes and thirty seconds, save for one lone horn note that pops in for a beat out of nowhere along the way. A full A-side of that breakdown - just the rollicking rhythm section having at it - no horn riffs, no singing - surely confused and/or put off DJs and anyone else who heard it back then. Many likely didn't even bother to check the other side and tossed it toward the nearest receptacle or open window. But even if the release had come out in the "correct" order, as I have set it up, I wonder if the public of 1968, even in New Orleans, was ready for this much getdown topped off by Indian-style singing. After all, it was still the stuff of the backstreets on Fat Tuesday and St. Joseph's Day only and took some getting used to.
Whichever way you play it, hearing "Boogaloo Mardi Gras" now, when the Indians' music is so well-documented, available, and familiar to more people, you can see what a great thing Eddie Bo did in getting the record cut and released back then. What a brilliant, adventurous, if oddball, producer he was. By allowing the Bobby Williams Group to freely get down in the groove, Bo, no stranger to rhythmic resourcefulness, captured an intense approximation of the Mardi Gras Indians' feel in the studio. Remember, this was several years before the Wild Magnolias cut "Handa Wanda", their first rave-up on 45. Depending of how many people actually heard it at the time (anybody besides E. B. Lewis, whose name written is on my copy?), "Boogaloo Mardi Gras" may have even encouraged the real Indians to record. To my mind, that's why this all but forgotten record deserves serious attention and its participants props, plus the fact that it is so much damn fun to listen to.
The only compilation I am aware of that has re-issued the song - actually just "Part 1" - isIn The Pocket With Eddie Boon Vampi Soul, which came out last year (didn't get around to reviewing that one, either!). Reading the notes for the LP version, I have found comments credited to Bo which state that he often used saxmen James Rivers and David Lastie, as well trumpeter Melvin Lastie on sessions in the Seven B days. So, they would be good candidates for the horn section on this single. As prodigious as the Bobby Williams Group were as musicians, I don't think they ever recorded again under the name; and though there are a number of Bobby Williams' in the discographies of various labels, they are likely not this natural, feel-good Crescent City drummer. I found a reference to him doing session work into the 1990s, as he is listed as playing on a Mighty Sam McClain CD done for Orleans Records. If you have more information on Bobby, let me/us know.
At this point, the evidence is right here: the percussive bliss of Williams' amazing. . . bounciness, which impressed Bo enough to record just the drums, bass and guitar alone on one entire side of this single to further focus in on Bobby's beats. It's almost as if he knew that the world then wasn't quite ready for what he was hearing, and it needed to be preserved for future groovers to one day unearth and lock into. Mission accomplished.
As you can see, I've been taking a brief break from music posting here on da blog, but not from my behind the scenes vinyl pursuits. Stay tuned for more from the HOTG archives, coming real soon as Carnival season fires up. But, now, once again (may be the last time, I don't know) I come to you with a stack of CDs by my side. It's time for my annual list of some of the mainly Crescent City music in the digital domain I bought this year. With a few exceptions, the funk quotient is high on all. I do this list mainly to give props and support to the local musicians who still are putting out exceptional music - since most of the rest of the year, we groove to the drums of distant decades, focusing on records long past their prime. Most of these CDs came out in '08, although a few are '07 vintage - still recent. . . in geezer-time. You may note that the majority were independently released by the bands themselves, which is commendable, since record companies are part of the problem - but availability can be limited. It's up to you to dig down and support New Orleans and Louisiana musicians and help insure their survival. Make the effort, invest in as many of their CDs or downloads as you can. Experience the artists live whenever you get a chance. You'll reap the rewards.
This is my own quirked-out, limited pile, in no particular order, not to be taken as a comprehensive assessment of what came out during the last year. For a larger assortment, Offbeat has it covered. In the very near future, I'll do my best to have a track from each on my list randomly catching the current of theHOTG webcaststream, joining most all the tracks I've ever posted, and various other treats. Come on over. Now that I've got the disclaimers, self-promotion and soap-box out of the way, I'll start off with a few I missed in 2007.
Dancin' Ground, New Orleans Rhythm Conspiracy (Independent, 2007). I first heardNORCplaying at Jazzfest 2008 and was mighty enthused. Their impressive debut CD is likely the last released recording for one of the city's hottest, most inventive drummers: Wilbert 'Junkyard Dog' Arnold, who recently passed on at age 53 - way too soon. Also funikin' up the rhythm section are bassist Jack Criuz, who played with Arnold in Walter 'Wolfman' Washington's Roadmasters (review below)for over 20 years (and still does), and in-demand veteran conga man,Alfred 'Uganda' Roberts. Full of high spirits and low down grooves, and featuring the elusive soul chanteuse,Marilyn Barbarin (Mrs. Arnold), on three cuts and Mardi Gras Indians on two others, the aptly named Dancin' Ground will have your backfield in motion 'til the mornin' comes. NORC offers up direct evidence for the continuing revitalization of New Orleans via its music, one funky throw-down at a time.
On The Brim, Groovesect (Independent, 2007). Well-made and showcasing the tight ensemble musicianship and compositional talents of this relatively young band, together just a few years, On the Brim goes for a more reigned-in jazz production with obvious funk elements, making it cool and hip, for sure; but it's not what I have experienced when hearing them live, whereGroovesect'sall instrumental funk is dominant and cookin ' on all burners. Some performances on the CD edge closer to that on-stage energy, like when funky icon Fed Wesley joins in on two cuts; but, for now, I prefer their sound outside of the studio confines. Of special mention is their senior member, an integral part of the collective polyrhythmia, percussionist 'Uganda' Roberts, who has backed the Meters, Professor Longhair, the Wild Magnolias and many others in his time. He lends this sect of stone groovers priceless HOTG cred, which wouldn't mean a thing if they didn't step up and earn it.
The Truth Iz Out, Theryl 'Houseman' DeClouet, (Independent, 2007). Released late in 2007, this CD received a brief mention from me on last year's list and is worth of another plug, as I still dig it one year on; and it doesn't seem to have gotten much attention. I sawthe Housemanat Jazzfest this year doing some of these tunes, backed up by Jon Cleary's rhythm section, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, and I thought he sounded impressive, much better than when I first heard him with Galactic some years back. Based in Chicago now, he cut this CD back home; and it has some of New Orleans' finest players on it, including the ubiquitous 'Uganda' Roberts, who lock in the mostly smooth soul/funk vibe of the high calibre compositions, perfectly showcasing the melodic, fine grit of the Houseman's vocals.
City That Care Forgot, Dr. John and the Lower 911 (429 Records, 2008). One ofMac Rebennack's finest albums, City That Care Forgot (an old name for carefree New Orleans that always dripped irony and now is engulfed by it) addresses the precarious reality of the post-Katrina city and its state of mind, the unifying theme of all the songs. Although Mac has not lived in his beloved hometown full-time since the early 1960s, he is an embodiment of it, talking the talk, walking the walk, and still fiercely loyal in the face of those so-called leaders who brought us the Federal Flood and its FUBAR aftermath. Musically, you get what you expect from the good Dr. and his solid band, which always means high quality grooves in an organic, funky blend of the city's various styles, supporting the freshly piquant lyrical messages of Mac and his old (Bobby Charles) and new (Chris Rose, et al) collaborators. Pulling no punches, the songs give genuine voice to the denizens of the entire ravaged homeland on what is definitely the most honest, well-crafted, potent Katrina-related musical project to date, rendered by a man who will always remain vitally connected to the place, come hell or high water.
Doin' The Funky Thing, Walter 'Wolfman' Washington (zoho, 2008). Well, the title pretty much says it all onthe Wolfman'sfirst CD of new material in about a decade, as he returns in top form with his band of over 20 years, the Roadmasters, minus the recently departed Wilbert 'Junkyard Dog' Arnold - rest his soul. Arnold still seems to be on these tracks in spirit thanks to the tight, creative, broken-field playing of Kevin O'Day, who proves himself eminently capable of holding down the JYD chair. Long time bassist and frequent co-writer, Jack Cruz (who also co-founded New Orleans Rhythm Conspiracy, which shares several songs in common with this album)), is still a vital part of the rhythm section. Their well-oiled, finely-tuned internal combustion, plus a fluid horn section, and a few friends sitting in all help the Wolfman re-establish himself as purveyor of some of the best high energy, in da pocket, down and gritty soulful funk New Orleans has to offer.
Live At The Maple Leaf, Joe Krown, Walter 'Woflman' Washington, Russell Batiste, Jr. (Independent, 2008). These three A-list players, who also front their own groups as well as being sought-after sidemen, have held down the Sunday night gig (free crawfish !) atthe Leafon Oak Street in Uptown New Orleans for a couple of years now. I just saw them there the cold weekend before Christmas. During their tenure, they have developed a robust trio sound withKrown on B-3 organ(vintage 1958), Washington on guitar and vocals, andBatiste on drums, gettin' down real funky. Their set list is a mix of instrumental originals (by Batiste or Krown) and cover tunes, many from Washington's extensive repertoire. A well-recorded, accurate portrayal of some of what they dish out at the gig, the CD was tracked at the club on a hot summer night last year, and conveys a sense of the festive vibe inside and, just maybe, the smell of mudbug steam hanging in the air - the perfect atmosphere for their special brand of spontaneous grooving to occur, which it decidedly does.
Peace, Love & Understanding, Big Sam's Funky Nation (Independent, 2008). Hard blowing trombonistBig Sam Williams, a veteran of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, fronts this large, hard-driving outfit that mixes New Orleans and other funk styles, jazz, and jamband rock into a heady brew that can nail you against the back wall with it's powerful kick, especially live. Sitting in on vocals for a couple songs on the new CD are Ivan Neville and Nick Daniels of Dumpstaphunk. I dig the mix of styles evolving in this band and the intricate twists and turns within the more complex of the tunes. Almost entirely a high-energy outing, the CD leaves no doubt that BSFN is a force to be reckoned with. It must be cranked on a full range system for proper effect; and, when the party erupts, prepare to get on up and sweat.
Emphasis (On Parenthesis), Stanton Moore Trio (Telarc, 2008). Great title. The cleverness extends to many of the selections on this latest frommega-drummer Moore(Galactic, Garage a Trois, et al) whose solo projects are always engaging romps. Stripped down to a core unit of Moore, guitaristWill Bernard, and keyboardistRobert Walter, the trio setting brings each player into sharp focus and sparks intense interaction. You'll hear punchy, spunky funk, alluring tones, manifold grooves, and even an off-kilter soundscape , with plenty of Moore's best broken-up playing throughout, natch. A number of the tunes have a harder rock edge, several reminding me of Jeff Beck's 1970s style of fusion; and when Moore really rocks out, I can hear his debt to the amazingly creative (and hard-hitting)John Bonham. Booty shakers, hippie herky-jerkers, and free-thinking head-bangers can all find something to latch onto in this diverse package.
New Orleans Latin Soul, Los Po-Boy-Citos (Independent, 2008). Winner of my highly coveted (and just invented) year's best new band name award. These guys contacted me about their band last year and invited me to a gig. So refreshing, since 99% on my email is spam from or about bands who have NOTHING to do with New Orleans. Anyway, they later sent me their new CD, too, even though I have yet to make it to one of their gigs. Much of their inspiration harks back to the Latin-soul boogaloo music that came mainly out of New York City back in the 1960s via the many exceptional Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians long on the scene there. To that vintage boogaloo. Los P-B-C apply some funky local R&B, offering a fresh slant on New Orleans' historic Cuban, Caribbean and second line influences. Other bands have made successful Latin/New Orleans fusions: Cubanismo's searing salsa-oriented Mardi Gras Mambo, the multi-cultural jazz approach ofLos Hombres Calientes; and the Iguanas' roots rock mix. This is a band till in the early stages of making its statement, but listeners are rewarded for getting in on the ground floor and experiencing their insinuating moves and grooves. Polished and deceptively easy on the ears New Orleans Latin Soul gets better the more I hear it, enticing me to start a side collection of boogaloo (like I need another obsession). An impressive first effort that has me looking forward to more, including, I swear, catching Los Po-Boy-Citos down and dirty live at a club. The sooner the better.
Here Come the Girls, Ernie K-Doe (Great American Music, 2008). When he was still of this Earth (more or less), K-Doewas always predicting the impending re-arrival of fame truly worthy of his own self-image, but, unfortunately, passed away just a few years shy of getting some of that from an unexpected source. As I have related previously, in 2007, a British TV commercial for a drugstore chain used the song "Here Come The Girls" from an obscure (to most) album K-Doe made with producer/writer Allen Toussaint and the Meters around 1970, titled Ernie K-Doe. The commercial became a phenomenon, going out to the world via Youtube; and the song became a hit in the UK, exposing K-Doe to a new generation of fans who really knew nothing about him. Demand for the song was so great that the entire LP was re-issued on a re-titled CD last year, with a few bonus tracks thrown in. The original album tanked early on; and decent copies of it, sought by collectors for years, are now hard to find and quite pricey. Such is our boom or bust culture that one TV ad in high rotation opened up a huge market for this remastered digital version, making K-Doe massively hip yet again. I suspect that he, being Emperor of the Universe and all, had a hand in it from Beyond. If you haven't already, I highly recommend that you procure a copy of the CD before it, too, fades away - as fame is even more fleeting these days. It's good stuff, and you can enjoy it while awaiting Ernie's next miracle.
Simply Grand, Irma Thomas (Rounder, 2008). Finally, I'm slipping in this non-funk selection because, hey, it's Irma Thomas, people. Nuff said. Producer Scott Billington's concept for his, what, ninth album working with Irma is nothing short of brilliant. The certified, qualified, sanctified Soul Queen of New Orleans movingly interprets a well-chosen, evocative selection of material accompanied by various piano virtuosos from home and farther afield: Dr. John, Henry Butler, Jon Cleary, Ellis Marsalis, Randy Newman, and so on. The piano is such an integral part of the city's sound, as is Irma's rich, resonant, heart-touching voice, which just grows richer and more rewarding with the years. The combinations and collaborations on this CD, gorgeously recorded, make for another highpoint in the singer's triumphant, supremely well-deserved career rebound after the Katrina disaster. She's simply miraculous every day.
Well, it's about time to get back to the vinyl, now. I had wanted to review some CDs by artists from the Lafayette area, but I've run out of steam. So, let me just give you the links and brief blurbs and let you take it from there. Though not funk records, all are highly recommended:
You Don't Know Your Mind, David Egan (Out Of The Past, 2008) - A nationally recognized and respected songwriter, David Egan also performs his own material very effectively. Various parts blues, rock, Louisiana soul, and New Orleans R&B, he is more than the sum of his influences; and I rank him up with Randy Newman as one of the great songcrafters of my generation.
Union Town, The Bad Roads (Latanier, 2007) - Birthed as a high-school garage band in Lake Charles, LA, they had one regionally successful single in 1966 that has become a high priced treasure for garage-rock collectors and appeared on numerous compilations. The Bad Roads, who broke up in 1967 and informally first re-united in 1980, are miraculously still rocking out better than ever and releasing new material. My newest guilty pleasure.
from the Reach, Sonny Landreth (Landfall, 2008) - I am indeed fortunate to get to see Sonny fairly frequently around here at clubs, festivals. . . and the grocery store. At times I've watched him play from literally just a few feet away, yet I continue to be completely dazzled and mystified by his technique, not quite able to explain what he does with a slide to get the effects he coaxes from the strings - he's some kind of conjurer, for sure, and sounds like no one else. If you're not familiar with Sonny, change that and see why some of the best guitar players on the planet, and legions of the rest of us, are such fans of his.