Friday, December 12, 2008

Songs 4 Foodies #2

Hope you’ve all come with a good appetite—in particular a lot of soul food & New Orleans cuisine on today’s musical menu. OK, I’ll admit I’d pass on the chitlins & the pigfeet, but red beans & rice is heavenly, as are collard greens & black-eyed peas. On the non-soul food side, who can pass up doughnuts, or eggs & sausage?

For those who missed last week’s inst
allment of foodie songs (with the series intro, which you can check out here), over the next few weeks I’ll be posting lists of food songs with some commentary, & (as the title strongly implies) this is the second installment in the weekly series. Food songs have always been near & dear to both Eberle & me—in the Alice & Wonder Band two of our favorite originals were “The One Potato Shuffle” (which Eberle co-wrote with our singer, Deadre Chase) & “Toad in the Hole,” one of Eberle’s trademark piano-banjo-violin-oboe instrumentals in F#—those keyboard players sure like the black notes!

‘Nuff said—serve it on up!

  • “Chitlin Con Carne”: Chicago blues legend Junior Wells brings some truly amazing vocal effects to the harp on this one, & in between the wild honks & moans he just blows pure passion, while Buddy Guy (guitar), Jack Myers (bass), & Billy Warren (drums) lay down a funky beat; The Hoodoo Man Blues cd has an alternate take that features more of Guy’s guitar playing & also brings the drums forward in the mix. (Junior Wells: Hoodoo Man Blues: Delmark)
  • “Clarinet Marmalade”: This is a jaunty Dixieland number that features great interplay between Bix Beiderbecke’s cornet & Jimmy Dorsey’s clarinet on a recording of Frank Trumbauer & His Orchestra—like so many great clarinet numbers it takes the instrument from its whistle-like upper register to its warm & mellow low range. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band also did a nice version of this way back in 1918. (Bix Beiderbecke: Singin’ the Blues: Columbia Jazz Masterpieces; Original Dixieland Jazz Band: The 75th Anniversary: Bluebird)
  • “Coconut Milk”: This tune involves some serious New Orleans funk courtesy of Bo Dollis & the Wild Magnolias. "Wild" indeed—these guys definitely get some frenetic energy going. Bo Dollis is chief of the Wild Magnolia tribe— for those who don’t know, the New Orleans Indian tribes aren’t Native Americans, but African American societies that are integral to the Mardi Gras celebration; that’s Bo Dollis in full carnival regalia in the pic at the bottom of the post. “Coconut Milk” is resplendent with funky guitar & piano, chorused horns, a backbeat with guaranteed danceability, & Dollis’ soulful vocal. (Bo Dollis & the Wild Magnolias: Louisiana Spice: Rounder)
  • “Collard Greens & Black-Eyed Peas”: Bud Powell was one of the many tragic jazz stories, but at the peak of his powers he was a masterful piano player. Powell brings this keyboard genius to his take on Oscar Pettiford’s “Collard Greens & Black-Eyed Peas,” taking the song from almost prehistoric funk to beautifully lyrical runs. Bass player George Duvivier gets to show off his chops on this one, too, while drummer Art Taylor keeps everything moving at a finger-popping pace. The recording is from 1953. (Bud Powell: The Blue Note Years: Blue Note)
  • “Come on in My Kitchen”: This resophonic classic brings the eerie whine of a National guitar into our virtual kitchen. Taj Mahal’s live version features some jazzy chromatic chord riffs, Mahal’s big vocals, & a big ringing sound from his National; Rory Block’s version is soulful & spare—she seems to understand that elemental National sound when she says, “Listen to that wind blow,” & adds a fill riff. & of course, don’t forget blues wizard Robert Johnson who penned this tune—between his otherworldly guitar & his poetic lyrics, Johnson was in a class by himself. (Taj Mahal: An Evening of Acoustic Music: Ruf Records; Rory Block: Gone Woman Blues: Rounder; Robert Johnson: King of the Delta Blues, vol. 1: Columbia)
  • “Cornet Chop Suey”: This Louis Armstrong composition features a young Satchmo blowing a swaggering cornet, backed by the rest of the Hot Five: Lil Hardin on piano, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Kid Ory on trombone, & Johnny St Cyr on banjo. Although the song is an Armstrong showcase, Hardin comes in with a nice stride style piano solo midway thru; meanwhile Dodds & Ory are laying a texture of fills, while St Cyr pretty much provides both chords & drum with his 6-string banjo. This version was recorded in 1925. (Louis Armstrong: Louis Armstrong Hot Fives & Sevens: JSP)
  • “Crawfish Fiesta” – Professor Longhair: OK, so this is “Rum & Coca Cola, with a side order of “A Tisket, A Tasket”—but when Professor Longhair starts going wild on the 88s (with a crazy bass back up), it’s completely his own. Fess, as he was known, comes up with dizzying piano runs that are rocking & lyrical all at once. Professor Longhair was one of the true greats of New Orleans music—that sonic stew simmering with heaping tablespoons of blues & jazz & rock & roll, & when it's done, just being savory & hot with its own unique Creole sound. (Professor Longhair: Crawfish Fiesta: Alligator)
  • "Dem Red Beans & Rice": It’s only right that food as sublime as red beans & rice should have inspired lots of songs—I know least one other will appear on a later list. This wild Dixieland tune is by Rahsaan Roland Kirk & it features Kirk playing the manzello (I believe—it sure sounds like a soprano sax). For all Kirk’s experimentation, he knew his jazz history, & here he’s channeling soprano great Sidney Bechet thru the filter of be-bop. "Dem Red Beans & Rice" really swings, & besides Kirk’s amazing horn work, it also features some nice piano by Ron Burton. This take was recorded live at San Francisco’s Keystone Korner in 1973—what a show that must have been! (Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Bright Moments: Rhino)
  • “Diggin’ My Potatoes” Lead Belly does catchy upbeat version of Big Bill Broonzy’s tune, along with Brownie McGhee sharing the guitar & vocals, Sonny Terry on harp, Pops Foster on bass & Willie “The Lion” Smith on piano. Of course this is more about gardening than eating—tho it’s actually not about either, unless there’s a lot of moaning involved in potato digging; moaning somehow alerts Lead Belly to this illicit activity…. Lead Belly: The Bourgeois Blues: Smithsonian Folkways)
  • “Doughnuts”: If you lived in Baghdad by the Bay in the 90s you had to love The Buckets; they were simply the acme of cowpunk (acknowledged influences: Hank Williams & The Pixies) with great songs & vocals by front man Earl Butter (AKA Ray Halliday) & wonderful support by such colorful characters as Wanderlean Taters, Kid Coyote, Bea Donna Potts, & Slim Volume. This song (which also features nice pedal steel by Steve Cornell) suggests doughnuts as a mediating force when there are tough times in a relationship, & points out that “they’re often better than beer.” Makes sense to me. It’s great to see The Buckets are back with a new album, Sod. (The Buckets: The Buckets: Slow River Records)
  • “Dreamer’s Holiday” Eberle & I were kind of obsessed with this delightfully quirky old standard a few years back & came up with a wacky baritone uke/toy piano arrangement, with yours truly trying the navigate the tricky vocal jumps (with very mixed results). The version we know is by Leon Redbone; his own relaxed vocal style is a great match for the tune. & I know it’s not about food, but it has some great food lines in the lyrics: “Ev’ry day for breakfast there’s a dish of scrambled stars/& for luncheon you’ll be munchin’ rainbow candy bars./You’ll be dining à la mode on Jupiter & Mars/on a Dreamer’s Holiday.” (Leon Redbone: Up a Lazy River: Rounder)
  • "Eggs & Sausage”: In 1975 Tom Waits was perfecting his gravel-voiced beat poet-as-singer-songwriter incarnation, & one milestone along the way was his tremendous Nighthawks at the Diner album. Backed by jazzmen Pete Christlieb on tenor sax, Bill Goodwin on drums, Jim Hughart on upright bass, & Mike Melvoin on piano (Waits also plays piano & guitar as well as adding his inimitable vocals) Waits takes listeners on a tour thru bars & diners, onto lonesome late night freeways, & even into strange suburban landscapes. “Eggs & Sausage” captures the eerily compelling beauty & loneliness & illusion of the real night life—sitting in an all-night diner watching a “lead-pipe dawn” falling. The intro to this song is hilarious, including a surreal story about a fight between a veal cutlet & a cup of coffee that’s “too weak to defend itself.” (Tom Waits: Nighthawks at the Diner: Elektra)
  • “Gimme a Pigfoot”: Bessie Smith’s voice resounds with life & energy, even on recordings made way before any idea of “clean sound”—the “Empress of the Blues” sang with passion & power. This tin pan alley blues gives a rather detailed description of a wild party, where besides a “pigfoot & a bottle o’beer” you can get reefer & gin, but should check your razor & guns at the door. This session produced by John Hammond was one of Bessie Smith’s last recordings, made in 1933, & with more of a big band setting than on her classic 20s sides—but she was still in her blues-shouting prime. (Bessie Smith: The Bessie Smith Collection: Columbia Jazz Masterpieces)



  1. Awwwww Y'all really served up my morning with this one.
    We just had to hang you onto today's ladda. Looks like we gonna haft'a hang you wit'da Stitch'hikas too!

    Did y'all hear about this on NPR recently?
    'Cooking Up A Storm': Recipes From The Big Easy

    Come on home --every one of youz closet nolafugees.
    Editilla~New Orleans Ladder

  2. Hey, thanks a lot Editilla! I checked out your site & it's great-- & I added New Orleans Ladder to the blogroll here. Really appreciate your taking the time to look us up, & glad that you liked it.

    John H

  3. Stevie Ray Vaughn does a worthy version of "Chitlins Con Carne." Also, don't miss "Holiday Marmalade," Jorma Kaukonen's Christmas guitar jam.

    Great blog! I linked via da ladda!

  4. Thanks, Citizen K-- I had a chance to look over your blog a bit this a.m.-- looks good; will be checking it out more. Don't recall that Jorma song, but thanks for bringing it up!

    John H

  5. It's on Jorma's 1995 holiday CD, Christmas. I don't know whether the CD is available anymore, but you can download it from iTunes.

    I drag it out every year during the holidays and then almost always wind up listening the first Hot Tuna CD, which I did yesterday. "Candy Man" and "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning" have been running through my head ever since!

    Thanks for checking out my blog. Yours looks wonderful, and who can beat the title? Talk about a poem waiting to be written...

    BTW, my wife is poet. Her blog is here.

  6. Really like both Citizen K & Premium T blogs a lot. "Candy Man" & "Keep Your Lamp" are great songs to have in your head-- could see the former must have been on your mind thanks to your post title today.

    The "Robert Frost's Banjo" title was actually my wife Eberle's idea, but I definitely liked it as soon as she said it.



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