I hope you all enjoyed my article about how to find a little NOLA in the DTGVL. So now you know where to look, here’s a little info on what to look for …in my opinion, anyway. In New Orleans, this “bonus” article would be called a “lagniappe” – which means “a little something extra” in Cajun French.
Many New Orleans musicians are household names…Harry Connick, Jr, The Nevilles, Ernie K-Doe, Fats Domino, Louis Armstrong, but there is even more talent that is almost unknown outside of south Louisiana. I think you could probably listen to an album by a different New Orleans artist every day for a year and not even scratch the surface, but here are a few of my favorites …to help get you in the Mardi Gras mood…
Preservation Hall Jazz Band – If jazz is the soul of New Orleans, then the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is certainly the heart that pumps life into it. Their tiny, French Quarter venue is a mecca for musicians from all over the world. The Foo Fighters recently cut a track for their new album there and featured the band and their beloved NOLA in their recent “Sonic Highways” series. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqmg7mB8xiI
Cowboy Mouth – I think the members of this frenzied, energetic party band must bleed green, gold and purple…especially Fred LeBlanc, the drummer/ lead singer/ cult leader of this religious experience known as Cowboy Mouth. These guys love New Orleans…I mean REALLY LOVE New Orleans…and it shows in every “rockin’, dancin’, throw your head back & thank God you’re alive” note! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvOUPMsxOS4
Trombone Shorty (aka Troy Andrews) – Before the term meant a curvaceous female with certain “assets”, “Shorty” meant a child musician who played with adult, often professional, bands. Holding his own with experienced musicians since he could barely hold a trombone, this child prodigy is now all grown up. A regular at Jazzfest, his near-perfect fusion of jazz, funk & metal has won much critical acclaim. If I could only listen to one album for the rest of my life, I think his 2010 “Backatown” would be the one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sv3D9k6XGEE
Irma Thomas – This songbird is known as the “Soul Queen of New Orleans”. A contemporary of Aretha Franklin and Etta James, she never enjoyed the same commercial success until recently. She won a Grammy in 2007 (her first) and was prominently featured on the HBO series “Treme”. This grande dame of blues is now enjoying the acclaim that is long overdue her as fans young and old discover her music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaJRDGiDUF0
Tab Benoit – If you are looking for authentic Cajun Blues/Rock, this guy is the real deal! Hailing from Houma, LA, in the heart of Cajun country, this talented musician combines heartfelt lyrics with incendiary guitar licks. A longtime favorite to music fans here in the Upstate, he almost always performed at The Handlebar to sold out crowds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRWRyVodjs8
Kermit Ruffins – If New Orleans Jazz was a country, then Kermit Ruffins would be its ambassador. His tunes evoke images of second-lines and Mardi Gras Indians and long held traditions. The joy this trumpeter, singer and composer feels for his hometown shines on his face and in his music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFhr94CyUH0
Dr. John – Many people say they have an almost religious experience when listening to NOLA music. Well, if music was a religion, Dr. John would certainly be its shaman. The Physician of Phonk, the Night Tripper, the Gris-Gris Man…Dr. John ( aka Mac Rebennack) is all these things & more. This music legend embodies all that is the Big Easy…the good, the bad & the mystical! His latest album is a tribute to another NOLA native son, Louis Armstrong…done in a way only Dr. John can! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkX6JUXekXY
Anders Osbourne – This Swedish born, NOLA bred artist has already had a very prolific music career, yet many people are just now hearing of him. With a voice that is both dark and light, this profound blues musician plays guitar with the intensity of a starving man devouring his first meal. If I could only listen to 2 albums for the rest of my life, his “American Patchwork” would be one of those. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmbwGy6IUHI
Cary Hudson – This Gulf Coast singer / songwriter is a recent discovery for me. His music has been featured in several TV shows and movies – most recently, George Clooney’s “Up In The Air”. His homegrown style of country blues reflects the laid-back attitude of the bayou. He will be performing in the Charleston, SC area the weekend before Fat Tuesday. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fjF4A68S6U
Rebirth Brass Band – When most people think of Fat Tuesday, they think of brass bands. Evolving from a group of street musicians, this band has become a New Orleans institution. Mardi Gras wouldn’t be the same without them! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-ZXMDBvscU
There are so many more I haven’t covered that are definitely worth checking out… Marc Broussard, Dumpstaphunk, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Marcia Ball, Lucinda Williams, John Boutte, The Meters, The Iguanas, Beausoliel, Amanda & The Cute Boys…just to name a few. Check them out on Youtube, buy their CDs from local record stores like Horizon, Earshot & Cabin Floor, check their tour dates and go to see them when they are in town at Greenville venues like Smiley’s, Gottrocks and IPA. But also take time to enjoy our local talent and support our own music scene. The great poet & author, Berthold Auerbach once said “Music washes away from the soul, the dust of everyday life” – and I wholeheartedly agree. See you Downtown!