Clifton Chenier- “My Soul”. 1955. Etta James on backing vocals!
Corey Harris - “Eh La Bas”. 1999. I first heard his rendition of this traditional tune on the excellent Greens from the Garden.
And here’s the Tuxedo Jazz Band doing “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”, live in Germany, 1964.
- 1 year ago
Ernie K. Doe. Here Come the Girls. 1970. Produced by Allen Toussaint, obvi.
- 1 year ago
Professor Longhair - “Cry to Me”. From 1980’s Crawfish Fiesta. That’s Dr. John on guitar.
Professor Longhair - Crawfish Fiesta. 1980. From the album of the same name.
Mahalia Jackson is the second greatest of New Orleans musicians, behind only Louis Armstrong. Because she sung in a niche genre, the Queen of Gospel has remained relatively unknown.
This version of Silent Night illustrates what a powerful voice Jackson had and reveals her great command and musicality. She almost plays with the melody, transforming a song that has become trite (although it probably wasn’t she recorded this) into something different, something special. It’s so, so good.
I guess the best thing I can say is that Mahalia Jackson’s singing is so good that it makes up for the cheesy arrangements that pollute her Christmas albums.
- 1 year ago
Benny Grunch and the Bunch, the 12 Yats of Christmas
I could listen to unlimited numbers of (more or less) well-done novelty versions of the 12 days of Christmas. This one is, of course a favorite, as is the 12 Pains of Christmas and whatever you call this.
Benny Grunch and the Bunch are a novelty act that pops up around town every few years with songs like this one. Another of their hits is the subtle-but-true “There Ain’t No Place to Pee on Mardi Gras Day”.
This video is from some time in the 1990s, and is interesting because so many of the places in the video don’t exist anymore: K&B drug stores, A&G Cafeteria (which was gone before they filmed the video, notice the Picadilly), McKenzie’s bakery, the 17th Street Canal is still there, but now has tragic underpinnings, as does the lower 9th ward. Schwegmann’s was sold in 1996.
That’s fully half of the 12 Yats of Christmas that are gone or irrevocably changed, either due to economic insolvency or disaster. While I still enjoy the song as a celebration of the uniqueness of the city, there is now a sense of poignancy and loss, as I wonder about New Orleans in the future, and whether the unique institutions that make the city great will survive.
It’s enough to make a man drink a dix pack of Sixie.
I love Christmas music, even though 85% of it is dreck. This year, I’m combatting the dreck with this lame feature I’m calling A NOLA Christmas. 12 days, 12 Christmas tunes from New Orleans-area artists, 12 write-ups that will be ultimately unsatisfying. Enjoy!
I had a few possible songs planned for today, depending on the outcome of today’s game. Well, the outcome came, and it wasn’t so hot.
So, here’s a tune by Greg Barnhill (who is more of a producer than anything) and the New Birth Brass Band. It’s a one-off novelty deal, but manages to be a credible brass band song, if you’re into that kind of thing. Barnhill actually sounds a lot like Lyle Lovett in places, for what that’s worth.
New Orleans seems to produce a lot of novelty music (there’s at least one more coming in this countdown). I think there are a couple of reasons for that. Primary among them is that New Orleans still has a local music tradition, and even the big radio stations will occasionally play at least some local music*.
*Although even that is dying off as Clear Channel et al. continue to homogenize music toward a mushy, unsatisfying middle.
A second reason is that New Orleans music lends itself to novelty songs for two reasons: (1) there’s a sense of playfulness and joy in most New Orleans music, and (2) New Orleans music is an old-fashioned music (even as much of it remains cutting edge), and novelty songs seemed to have been more popular in the early days of rock than it is now.
And, keeping with the theme of the week (that much of Christmas music is just an attempt to cash in on the holiday), I suppose that a Christmas novelty song is one of the best chances a local act has to actually get some air play and sell a few singles.
Regardless, Santa didn’t bring the wish this year, but I suppose we can still be content with the Super Bowl victory. Playoffs are around the corner, anyway, and that’s a whole new ballgame, y’all.