Category Archives: TVD New Orleans

Mostly Alive from The Crooked Vines in stores today, 2/12

The New Orleans rock-pop collective The Crooked Vines’ new album Mostly Alive uses an unusual production technique. It’s a hybrid album featuring live tracks from over the past five years, which are augmented with overdubs and editing to create entirely new performances of favorite songs from their catalog.

Part of the reason for using these techniques is a fact of life for many bands in the trenches of the close-knit, but competitive New Orleans music scene. Personnel changes are inevitable. So, the band created a record that included as many of those previous members as possible.

Having seen them live several times, I can attest that the techniques work. For a band that is known for vibrant performances, the album manages to maintain the electric undercurrent of a live show.

The Crooked Vines released their eponymous debut in 2015 and their second album, Alive, in 2017.

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TVD Premiere:
The City Champs,
“Thinking of You”

PHOTO: JAMIE HARMON | An instrumental cover of Tony! Toni! Toné!’s 1990s R&B hit “Thinking of You” is probably not the first song you think of coming from Memphis organ trio The City Champs after a ten-year hiatus. But the trio, known in the early 2000s as a soul combo rooted in Memphis grooves and influenced by the classic Blue Note organ sound, are stretching into new sonic territory on their forthcoming album, Luna 68.

According to guitarist Joe Restivo, the pairing of the band and the cover isn’t as unlikely as it seems on first glance. He said, “We went through a bunch of (ideas for cover) songs and settled on the 1996 Tony! Toni! Toné! single, “Thinking Of You,” which is a song I had played many times in Memphis clubs and sounds like it could have been written for Al Green at the height of his Hi Records years.”

Though the band was on hiatus for ten years, none of the members have been idle. Restivo worked with soul legends Don Bryant and Percy Wiggins as well as on the soundtrack to the Netflix/Eddie Murphy film Dolemite Is My Name. Organist Al Gamble worked with St. Paul & The Broken Bones and the Hold Steady, and drummer George Sluppick toured and recorded with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Bruce Watson (of Fat Possum) produced Luna ’68 at his Delta-Sonic Sound studio in North Memphis. The full album comes out March 19 in all formats via Big Legal Mess.

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Our New Orleans, post-Katrina benefit album featuring 5 previously unreleased tracks in stores today, 1/29

Our New Orleans is available on vinyl for the first time through Nonesuch Records. The album has raised $1.5 million to benefit Gulf Coast survivors of the devastating 2005 hurricane via Habitat for Humanity.

The new version of the album, which features songs recorded by New Orleans musicians immediately after Hurricane Katrina, includes tunes by Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Irma Thomas, the Wild Magnolias, Buckwheat Zydeco, Randy Newman and more.

The album received rave reviews when it was first released. The Washington Post said, “Rife with stirring performances, Our New Orleans has the soul of the city.” The New York Times called it, “An album full of mourning, obstinacy and longing for redemption.”

The two-LP set, also available digitally, includes five previously unreleased tracks: “Do You Know What It Means,” by Davell Crawford; “Let’s Work Together,” by Buckwheat Zydeco and Ry Cooder; “Crescent City Serenade,” by Dr. Michael White; “Do You Know What It Means,” by The Wardell Quezergue Orchestra featuring saxophonist Donald Harrison, Jr. and “Walking By the River” by Dr. John (the above video was recorded in a New York City studio in September 2005).

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Bring Music Home
coffee table book benefiting live music venues available for
pre-order now

Bring Music Home is a unique, full color coffee table book that is the first of its kind. Weighing in at almost nine pounds and nearly 400 pages, this gorgeous product features many of the people and places that make up America’s live music ecosystem. Click here to pre-order now.

A portion of the proceeds from the purchase of this book directly benefit the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) as well as support more than 60 individual photographers, producers, designers and writers who helped make this project a reality. Full disclosure—I wrote the essay about New Orleans music.

Over the past eight months, this ace team of creatives from all across the country came together to document the collective experience of live music in the United States and showcase nearly 200 music venues and their staff from around the country. The book features clubs in 30 cities including Tipitina’s in New Orleans, the Empty Bottle in Chicago, and the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC.

Each city is also honored with a one-of-a-kind, museum quality graphic art poster. The New Orleans poster (pictured above) was designed by Jay Sayatovic. Click here to purchase it. Over 375 individuals were also interviewed and photographed from venue owners/ operators to longstanding employees and artists. Variety reported, “Bring Music Home is the only team currently documenting more than 200 music venues across 30 U.S. cities—a story of music culture’s unsung heroes, the real-life people behind live music.”

Pre-order your copy today to keep live music alive in the United States.

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Irving Banister Sr. RIP, GoFundMe campaign launches to defray funeral costs

The New Orleans guitarist Irving Banister, Sr., best known for appearing on record with a who’s who of New Orleans R&B stars including James “Sugarboy” Crawford (“Jock-a-Mo”) and Danny White (“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye”) as well as being an influential bandleader passed away on December 15.

His death has not been widely reported, as the family needs to raise funds to help defray the funeral expenses. A GoFundMe campaign has been established. Donations can be made here. All funds go directly to his family, which includes his wife, Big Queen Littdell Banister and his son, Spy Boy Irving “Honey” Bannister, Jr., both of the Creole Wild West.

Irving Bannister, Sr. was a member of the house band at the famed Dew Drop Inn on Lasalle Street when it was both a proving ground for up and coming musicians and an after hours spot for touring Black artists during the segregation era. Many musicians including some that are still alive including Walter “Wolfman” Washington and Ernie Vincent credit Bannister with influencing them based on his unique style of playing.

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Bon Bon Vivant’s Dancing in the Dark in stores today, 12/4

Back in September, TVD presented the worldwide debut of “Ship Is Sinking,” the first single from Bon Bon Vivant’s new album Dancing in the Darkness. Click the link to read what I had to say. Since then the New Orleans-based, impossible-to-pigeonhole band has been generating positive attention for the release of the full-length album. It’s out today.

The collection is a comment on finding celebration in life even when things aren’t easy or going your way. I think we can all relate to that during this strange year. The album showcases the many musical and lyrical sides of the band. It has its dark moments, but it also relishes in the joy of being alive.

“Hell or High Water,” is a declaration that we must stick to our convictions no matter what. While “This Year” is the acknowledgement of losing loved ones along the journey.

Bon Bon Vivant will celebrate the release of the album tonight (12/4) at the Broad Theater’s outdoor, social distanced space. Tickets are available here.

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Tipitina’s unveils new ‘Tipitina’s Record Club’

Over the course of its decades-long existence, thousands of shows have been performed at Tipitina’s and many of them have been recorded. The club’s latest effort to develop innovative ways of dealing with the severe downturn in business because of the coronavirus pandemic is a new record club featuring exclusive vinyl albums.

Two of the releases already scheduled are live recordings by James Booker and the Radiators. The first release is already out and it’s a killer set by Professor Longhair, the patron saint of the venue, which was recorded at his home back in 1973. It is a limited edition, custom-colored 33 RPM, 180-gram vinyl record exclusive to Tipitina’s record club members.

Future releases will include the aforementioned live sets plus the 25th anniversary deluxe edition of Galactic’s debut album, Coolin’ Off. New albums come out every two months and a yearly subscription features a nearly fifteen percent discount over the bi-monthly price. All details can be found here.

This is another great way to support one of the icons of the New Orleans music scene, an incubator of local talent and a favorite venue for hundreds of touring musicians and many thousands of music lovers.

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Ragas Live Festival to
be reimagined as an epic 24-hour live broadcast, 11/21–11/22

PHOTO: KENNY MATHIESON | The world music festival, which began in 2012, is planning an unprecedented global event featuring world music icons Terry Riley, Zakir Hussain, Toumani Diabate (pictured at top), Betsayda Machado and numerous others. Artists in thirteen cities from Mysore to Madagascar will contribute to a celebration of “Community, Unity, and Harmony.” Raga is the classical music of the Indian subcontinent.

In a sense, the festival, which began as a radio event and eventually began producing live shows around the New York area, is returning to its roots on the air. Performances will be live streamed on the site of one of the sponsors, Pioneer Works and on radio station, WKCR-FM 89.9 FM from 7 PM Friday evening until 7 PM Saturday evening (eastern time).

Some of the cutting edge cross-cultural performances include Terry Riley performing raga-based improvisations from Japan preceded by Brooklyn Raga Massive premiering a 24-person performance in homage to Riley. Amir ElSaffar will be collaborating with the Brooklyn Raga Massive as well as with Raga Maqam, a 14 piece ensemble that explores the intersections between maqam, the tonal language of Arab, Turkish, and Persian traditional music, and raga. Andy Statman, the legend of klezmer and bluegrass will be exploring both Jewish doinas and ragas from the 200-year-old synagogue B’nai Jeshurun.

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TVD Premiere: Kris Gruen, “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory”

The alt-folk artist Kris Gruen has an intergenerational connection with the 1970s rock and punk scene in New York, so it’s more than appropriate that one of the first singles off his new album is a wistful cover of the legendary scene maker Johnny Thunders’ tune “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory.”

Gruen said, “When I was born, my parents were working with The New York Dolls. I grew up hearing those various, raucous Dolls anthems that drove punk (as a genre) to the forefront of pop music. Many don’t know that Johnny Thunders, the Dolls’ lead guitarist, had a solo career as a singer-songwriter.” Gruen’s father, Bob, is a one of the leading photographers of the era perhaps best known for his iconic photo of John Lennon wearing a “New York City” t-shirt.

What makes the new single stand out so clearly, besides Gruen’s tender vocal and the song’s heartfelt lyrics, is the way the singer makes the tune his own. Thunders’ version hides some of the lyrics under the explosive rock beat of the era. Gruen exposes the song revealing the heartbreak that must have inspired it.

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Putumayo’s New Orleans Mambo: Cuba to Nola in stores today, 10/23

The Putumayo record label has a long history of fascinating compilations spanning virtually every genre of music. The latest includes ten tunes highlighting the connections between Cuba and New Orleans.

Though the album is billed as a collection of “the spicy rhythms of Cuba meet the soulful swing of the Crescent City,” the entire album features New Orleans musicians with the exception of the opener—a vibrant version of Dr. John’s classic, “Going Back to New Orleans” by the Latin jazz conga player Poncho Sanchez.

In fitting Putumayo style, the Good Doctor himself follows that cut with “Mos’ Scocious,” which is one of the grooviest tracks from his genre-defining 1974 album Desitively Bonnaroo.

The rest of the album features other well-known New Orleans artists including Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias, the Iguanas, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Neville Brothers. But to the credit of the producers, the album also includes killer cuts from lesser-known local players. Songs from the Cuban jazz band Otra, the Latin boogaloo group Los Po-Boy-Citos and the eclectic allstar unit Zazou City fit right into the mix with the bigger names.

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New album, All Grown Up from Bay area stalwarts Los Mocosos, in stores today, 10/2

The San Francisco Bay area has been known since the seminal days of Santana and War as the midwife to generations of Latin musicians creating music that pushes genre boundaries while being culturally inclusive and politically potent. Los Mocosos made a big name for themselves back in the early aughts and now they return with a new album, All Grown Up, which brings their conscious party music to a new generation—right on time in this politically and culturally charged moment.

Los Mocosos grew up in the Mission District of San Francisco, steeped in 1970s-era Latin rock and the Chicano civil rights movement. Their first album from 1998, Mocos Locos, became an underground barrio classic that propelled the band into the limelight. In 2001 and 2004, they released two albums on Six Degrees Records and toured with Santana and Los Lobos, lifting the spirits of festers across the country.

Known for their ability to traverse musical and cultural barriers, Los Mocosos, (the “Snotty-Nosed Brats,” loosely translated and used as a term of endearment) creatively weave together rock, reggae, funk, ska, and salsa to deliver their message. The result is subversive, conscious party music—laced with Latin horns, funky bass riffs and hip-hop scratching—that pays homage to an earlier era.

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TVD Premiere: Bon Bon Vivant, “Ship Is Sinking”

Bon Bon Vivant is one of those only-in-New Orleans bands. They are hard to categorize, write great songs, and perform with the joie de vivre inherent in the city’s musical culture and overall vibe. TVD is proud to present the worldwide debut of “Ship Is Sinking,” the first single from their new album, Dancing in the Darkness.

The song is a kick-sand-in-the-bully’s-face response to the current political, economic and cultural climate. “If this world is ending, why don’t we go out singing” is one of the telling lyrics along with “we won’t go quietly into this angry sea.”

Though the song expresses rage and frustration, the music is uplifting with a lilting groove and a great chorus. I can imagine it being a great, singalong crowd pleaser once we are allowed to dance together again.

I have seen Bon Bon Vivant live numerous times and their unusual instrumentation contributes to their singular sound. Guitar, saxophone, accordion, sousaphone and voices mingle in an amalgamation that references eastern European folk music, jazz and Tin Pan Alley songwriting amid a danceable pop vibe.

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An Evening in Paris
from pianist Lawrence Sieberth in stores today

Lawrence Sieberth is one of those great musicians that all the other musicians know about. But unless you’re involved in the jazz scene in New Orleans, you probably don’t know about him or his music. That should change with the release of his latest quartet record, An Evening in Paris. It’s out today.

Sieberth is a veteran player on the local scene and has a vast number of national and international credits as a versatile keyboard accompanist, multifaceted composer, bandleader, producer and more. Jeff Coffin, the saxophonist for the Dave Matthews Band, said, “Larry Sieberth is more than a great pianist, he is a great musician! I have known him for many years and have recorded with him, hung with him, and played gigs with him. His playing is legendary in New Orleans.”

His collaborations go back decades. He has performed and/or recorded with a who’s who of local players including the legendary Allen Toussaint, vocalist Johnny Adams, saxophonist Charles Neville, singer Irma Thomas, reedman Victor Goines, drummer/vibraphonist Jason Marsalis, vocalist Germaine Bazzle (featured in the above video) and hundreds of others.

The new album features all Sieberth originals, mostly new, brimming with melodic and rhythmic invention. He has a long history of playing and recording in France and this album, which delves deep into modern acoustic jazz, features the stellar French musicians Stephane Guillaume on tenor/soprano saxophones and Michel Benita on double bass, as well as longtime Paris-based expatriate and fellow Louisiana native Jeff Boudreaux on drums.

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The Magnificent Seven release live album to support Tipitina’s

On September 22, 2017, seven of the most celebrated musicians in New Orleans came together for only the fifth time to perform as The Magnificent Seven at Tipitina’s. The band, which includes guitarists and vocalists Dave and Tommy Malone, trombonist and vocalist Mark Mullins, keyboard player and vocalist John Gros, drummer Raymond Weber, bassist Rob Mercurio, and percussionist Michael Skinkus, has released a live album of that show with the proceeds going to support Tipitina’s during the travails of the pandemic. It is available here.

The term super group is certainly overused, and full disclosure, I have been guilty, but this aggregation of the players certainly fits the bill. However, despite the seven musicians long history playing in their own groups and in various aggregations with each other, they came across as a real band, not just a collection of musicians. The show was epic on many levels. I was there and covered it for TVD. The link is here.

From the opening notes of the great soul song, “You Got Me Hummin’” to the closer, a long medley of the Radiators’ song “Lucinda” jammed together with the theme song of the film from which the band takes its name and the Meters’ funk classic, “Cissy Strut,” the recording sizzles with great vocals, killer guitar solos, rock solid grooves and more.

Mark Mullins of the great funky rock band Bonerama adds some wonderful trombone solos driven into the stratosphere with wah-wah pedal effects. John Gros adds some downright nasty organ fills and solos with aplomb. Throughout the eight song, 70 minute album, the rhythm section percolates and pulses.

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Multi Instrumentalist Dirk Powell’s When I Wait For You in stores today, 9/4

Though Dirk Powell may be best known in Louisiana for being one of the founding members of Cajun band Balfa Toujours, he has had a long and varied career. Most recently, his collaboration with Rhiannon Giddens has earned him new accolades as an in-demand sideman and producer including a great performance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2016 that brought the house down.

On his latest album, When I Wait For You, his first since 2014, Powell explores the connections between roots Americana music and the folk music of British Isles. He brought several British musicians to his studio on the banks of Bayou Teche to create compelling music that sounds universal.

Powell wrote twelve of the thirteen songs on the album and he plays guitar, fiddle, bass, piano and keyboards and sings in his distinctive voice. The album teems with lilting strings, subtle harmonic touches, and tender backing vocals. Giddens plays viola and minstrel banjo and adds backing vocals on three tracks including the intimate and wistful childhood recollection “Say Old Playmate.”

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