Since I’ve never been one to shy away from oversimplifying any given subject, let me just say this about the great state of Louisiana. You can break it down into two parts: the city and the country. There’s New Orleans and then there’s the rest of it. City folk work indoors. Country folk, outdoors. City folk eat that refined Creole cooking. Country folk eat that hearty Cajun food. City folk gave us jazz and R&B. Country folk gave us zydeco. And sooner or later I’m going to do a show about the influences of zydeco, but not today. Today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl is dedicated to the people, the spirit, and the music of New Orleans.
Now New Orleans is, and always has been about, if not sex exactly, then at least promiscuity. It’s always been a place of unrestrained appetites. Extravagant eaters, debauching drinkers, wanton druggies, fornicators of all stripes. And of course the politicians who screwed everything, including the pooch. Literal or figurative, sex was subtext to the whole, humid, thing. The streetcar was named Desire, after all. Drinks are served in wide mouth glasses to go, so as not to tie you down. Plates are smothered with so much rich food you can offer a bribe with the leftovers. New Orleans is a place to lick your lips and satisfy your oral urges. That’s always been the lure. The sweet bait on the hook. Hell, even the language is fattening. A patois, all butter cream and praline, every bit as French as a warm tongue in your mouth. And it isn’t just the what; it’s the how much. It’s the excess and the promise of promiscuity that defines the place, makes it the draw it is, a conventioneers’s wet dream, no matter what your proclivity. You want a wholesome vacation? Go to Disneyland. Meanwhile get ready for some of that second line back beat music. From Marcia Ball to The Meters, and right in the middle of the set, be sure to listen for Stevie Ray Vaughn on lead guitar playing with Dr. John and the great saxophonist Bennie Wallace on a tune called “All Night Dance.” This one’s for everybody down in The Big Easy.
|That’s Enough of That Stuff
|All Night Dance
|Hey Pockey Away
|Ron Cuccia and the Jazz Poetry Group
|Ron Cuccia and the Jazz Poetry Group
|My Darlin’ New Orleans
Wrapping up a set of songs that’s the aural equivalent to a big bowl of gumbo, there’s a man who came out of the hospital with the name Malcolm and eventually took to calling himself the Night Crawler, but most of us know him as Dr. John. The inimitable Mac Rebennack doing a New Orleans standard called “Junko Partner.” The liner notes on the album, Dr. John’s Gumbo, says “Junnko Partner” was the anthem of dopers, whores, pimps, and cons which is why we like it so much here in the Way Back Studios. It resonates. That’s also a song they sang at Angola, the infamous state prison farm in Louisiana. The rhythm was even known as the ‘jailbird beat.’ Earlier in the set we heard Dr. John playing piano on and producing the great Bennie Wallace album, Twilight Time that came out on Blue Note records in 1985. If you can get your hands on it, by all means do. We heard the instrumental “All Night Dance” which, in addition to Bennie’s fine tenor playing, featured Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar.
We opened the set with Marcia Ball’s “That’s Enough of That Stuff” from her 1985 Hot Tamale Baby, a record she dedicated to the great zydeco player, Clifton Chanier. After that, but recorded ten years before Marcia Ball, we heard Taj Mahal doing a song called “Aristocracy.” That was followed by the Meters with their New Orleans classic “Hey Pockey Away” and then, about as deep a track as you’ll find. Ron Cuccia and the Jazz Poetry group, a band of jazz hipsters who released an album on the Takoma label in 1980, managed to capture the essence of The Crescent City with the two tracks we played, “Streets” and “My Darlin’ New Orleans.” Well we’ve let the good time roll as long as we can and now we’re all out of time. I’m Bill Fitzhugh and I’ll see you later on Decatur with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl. And I hope you can join us, if not at the Café Du Monde, then right here in the Deep Tracks.