Musicians and Bands
I Think You Should Know About
In my musical travels, I've come across artists and bands that are
incredibly wonderful, but who for whatever reasons tend not to be
well-known outside of their localities, their genres, etc. I seem to
have a knack for finding bands that not only I like, but the listeners to
my radio show also like. So, here are some
of my very favorite bands, ones that I think it'd be well worth your time
and money to seek out and find. This is by no means a comprehensive list,
but a good place to get started.
This page is gonna get bigger and unwieldier; I'll probably have to split it
up again soon. If there's something you like that's not on here, chances are
that I already know about it, but haven't necessarily had the time to work on
this page lately. If you're new to a lot of this stuff, this page is a pretty
good start. :)
[N.B. -- Some of the reviews here are incomplete, and I may not have
updated it in quite a while. I don't do this for a living, I do it in my
spare time (spare time, ah ... I remember that ...). If it ain't
here, rest assured I'm workin' on it, or at least planning to. If I
really want to lose sleep and kill time, and if y'all are real good boys
and girls and eat all your vegetables, I may even add discographies for
all these bands sometime soon ...]
When in New Orleans (or elsewhere in Louisiana), check the local listings
and if any of these bands are playing ... go see them.
Cajun and zydeco musicians
- The Balfa Brothers
- Balfa Toujours
- Probably Louisiana's best-known Cajun band, Michael Doucet and
BeauSoleil have been exploring the roots of Cajun music and bringing it
to a wide audience since the late '70s. Superb musicianship, roots
firmly planted in the Cajun tradition, and snippets of influence from
Creole to zydeco to rock and Caribbean sounds. Their most recent
release, L'Amour ou la Folie, is now out on Forward/Rhino Records.
- Boozoo Chavis
- Clifton Chenier
- He may have left us in 1985, but he was, still is, and forever shall be The King of Zydeco.
No aficionado of zydeco music can do without Clifton's music, which paved the way for
nearly all that is zydeco today.
- John Delafose
- Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys
- Steve's been wowing everyone since he was about 19, and he and his band are on
the forefront of the Cajun music scene, keeping the music true to the tradition and as
fresh as today. This is one of the bands who's going to be bringing Cajun music full-force
into the next century.
- Zachary Richard
"Traditional" and new New Orleans music (i.e., non rock and roll)
I know some people are going to quibble over semantics, as in what "New Orleans" music
really is. It's a lot of things, actually. It's old and new, it's a variety of styles,
but no matter what it is, it's music that to me is very identified with the city, like most
of these cats:
- James Booker
- The Iguanas
- One of New Orleans' most popular bands, and one of the most fun.
These guys and Cowboy Mouth are right up there at the top for me.
Imagine traditional Tex-Mex joined at the molecular-genetic level with
New Orleans R&B, filtered through a funky second-line groove (from Rene
Coman on the bass and Doug Garrison on the drums), with blazing guitar
and accordion from lead vocalist Rod Hodges, and Joe Cabral and Derek
Huston's twin tenor saxes in tight harmony, and you'll begin to get the
idea. Strong songwriting, incredibly danceable ... a great time is
guaranteed. Catch them most Sundays at the Maple Leaf, also
at Cafe Brasil and Mid-City Lanes.
- The Meters, and The funky Meters
- The original Meters -- Art Neville, Leo Nocentelli, George Porter
Jr. and Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste -- were the progenitors and
godfathers of New Orleans funk, and were the funkiest band who ever lived.
Scads of instrumental gems, songs that entered the New Orleans
consciousness forever, and a backup band to end all backup bands. Many
of their recordings fell out of print and became treasured collectors
items, but now a wonderful release from Rhino Records has collected some
of their best tracks on a 2-CD set called FUNKIFY YOUR LIFE: THE METERS
ANTHOLOGY. And the Meters are still around, although in a slightly
different form. They reformed several years ago, although with Russell
Batiste on drums instead of Zig. And Leo left the band a couple of years
ago, to be replaced by former Neville Brothers' band lead guitarist Brian
Stoltz, at which time the band changed their name to The funky Meters.
They still play around town and at Jazzfest,
and they're still the funkiest band around.
- The Neville Brothers
- The godfathers of "New Orleans music", this venerable
family has kept funkin' New Orleans for almost 30 years, and for almost
20 as The Neville Brothers. Art, Aaron, Charles and Cyril masterfully
blend R&B, soul, funk, jazz, second-line, black Indian grooves, rock 'n'
roll and even rap into the funkiest evenings you'll have anywhere. If
they're playing in New Orleans, or in your vicinity when they're touring,
don't miss them.
- The New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars
- Klezmer is the traditional, dance and wedding music of Eastern
European Jews. However, since most of these fellas are New Orleanian
Jews, you'll hear klezmer with a local twist, with elements of
traditional jazz, funk, and other New Orleans rhythms sneaking in. The
result is an incredible amount of fun. The All-Stars play klezmer music
from the tradition, and compose new song and tunes as well (and y'all
know I love that kinda stuff. Catch then at Café Brasil
and venues all over town.
- Professor Longhair
- "The Bach of Rock", as he was dubbed by Allen Toussaint. One of the greatest
piano players and most influential musicans ever to emerge from New Orleans music.
- The Radiators
- Fish Head Music from New Orleans, for the last 18 years, going
stronger than ever.
- The Normals
- The Cold
- Cowboy Mouth
- Balls-out rock and roll, with heavy country and folk influences,
great songwriting, four lead singers, brilliant harmonies, and enough
energy on stage to power a small city for several weeks ... Cowboy Mouth
is New Orleans' finest. John Thomas Griffith, Fred LeBlanc, Paul Sanchez
and newly joined-up bassist Rob Savoy put on some of the most amazing shows
you'll ever see, and they write terrific songs, too. See them wherever
and whenever you can. (The above link is their official homepage, which
contains their monthly newsletter, touring info, merchandising, pics,
and more.) They have four albums out; buy them all:
- WORD OF MOUTH, Domino Records
- MOUTHING OFF (LIVE + MORE), Viceroy Records
- IT MEANS ESCAPE, Monkey Hill Records
- ARE YOU WITH ME?, MCA Records
- Paul Sanchez currently has three excellent solo (mostly) acoustic
- JET BLACK AND JEALOUS, Little Fish Platters (sold out of its
run, last I heard)
- WASTED LIVES AND BLUEGRASS, Monkey Hill Records (available
- LOOSE PARTS, self-released
- Fred LeBlanc has two solo records; an EP entitled "dammit", which
was at first only available on the World Wide Web (very cool), and a new one
called "...playing the game of my life". They're available through the Mouth's website.
- Dash Rip Rock
- I had left these guys out of this list, and was duly admonished in
email by several Gumbo Pages readers. I must confess that I haven't been
all that much of a Dash fan since Fred LeBlanc left to form Cowboy
Mouth. They're still a lot of fun, though -- Bill Davis on guitar, Ned
"Hoaky" Hickel on bass, and new drummer Kyle Melancon, who replaced
longtime drummer Chris Luckette (formerly of The Normals and The Cold ...
hey, y'all remember them?). Best described as a punkabilly band on
speed, they're a hoot live (much better than on record, in my
not-so-humble opinion). They have seven records out, mostly on Mammoth
Records; the new one is called Get You Some Of Me, on Sector 2
- Funky, jazzy, noisy and extremely fun alternative rock from the
Crescent City. Imagine a band with a touch of fIREHOSE, a touch of Nels
Cline, a touch of Fred Frith, complex time signatures ... and with their
own very unique sensibility. You've really gotta hear these guys. Lou
Thevenot on guitar and vocals, A.P. Gonzales on drums, Mike Joseph on
bass, trumpet and vocals, and The New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars' Ben
Ellman on saxes and harmonica. Their debut album is called SLOPPY
ATROCITIES, is out on Airline 61
Records, and has to the best of my knowledge the world's first
"pop-up" CD booklet.
- the subdudes
- Soulful, funky, infections New Orleans folky funky rock, from a
buncha hometown boys who've relocated to the chillier wilds of Colorado,
but are a hometown band nonetheless. Unfortunately, they recently broke up,
but check out all their albums anyway. Great stuff. Two of the guys formed a
new band in New Orleans called Tiny Town; check 'em out live
if you can.
Bands/Artists from Ireland
Notes/reviews in progress.
- The Bothy Band
- De Dannan
- Ron Kavana, of Alias Ron Kavana and The Bucks
- Moving Hearts
Great Roots and Traditional Music
- Cordelia's Dad and Io
- This fantastic Massachusetts-based band plays American traditional music.
Look for their marvelous (almost) all-acoustic album Comet, as well as
their first two albums Cordelia's Dad and how can i sleep?, now available
on Omnium Records. They've got a recent all-rock album of original material called
road kill, but haven't played electric music in over a year -- their electric
incarnation (minus Laura, their fiddler) is called Io, and has a new 7" out. Don't
forget to check out their Web site at the link above, where you can get lots of band
info as well as ordering their records. One of my favorite bands in the world.
- This astonishing Swedish band takes music from the Swedish tradition and plugs it in,
fuzzes it up, takes it to beyond-modern and occasionally surreal levels, but it's
still traditional music. Sorta. You have to hear them to believe them. Hear them. There's
a cool unofficial fan page too.
- David Lindley
- Mr. Dave, of El Rayo-X fame, has these days been performing almost
exclusively in an acoustic setting, surrounded by a menagerie of stringed
instruments. Until recently he had been accompanied by Hani Naser
on hand percussion, and is now working with a percussionist named Wally Ingram. To see these guys play is to be astonished, to be lifted to heights of roots
music heaven you'll rarely experience anywhere else. Mr. Dave has
eschewed record companies, and puts his CDs out himself now. To get his
superb CDs -- OFFICIAL BOOTLEG: LIVE IN TOKYO, and OFFICIAL BOOTLEG #2, PLAYING
EVEN BETTER -- send a money order for US$17 for each CD ($15 plus $2 postage) to:
The National Endowment for I, Mr. Dave
Upland CA 91785-0370
Mr. Dave's got a new album out with Wally on Ulftone Records out of Germany entitled
TWANGO BANGO DELUXE.
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