Friday, June 5, 2009
“Stew Called New Orleans”
Although I don’t listen to a whole lot of recorded music, when I find an album of music that I really like, I can get pretty obsessed, & right now I’ve found one that’s so good enough I have to write about it.
I should say the album “found me,” thanks to good blog friend Citizen K. who posted about it here—an excellent review that’s defintiely worth checking out— & then was kind enough to supply me with a copy. It’s called A Stew Called New Orleans (Threadhead Records), & it features the truly amazing vocals of John Boutté, along with vocals & rhythm guitar work by Paul Sanchez, trumpet by Leroy Jones, some exceptional electric guitar work by Todd Duke & bass by Peter Harris.
The album moves from comic to heartwrenching (e.g., from the Dave Frishberg-esque humor of “Two-Five-One” to the incredibly moving “A Meaning or a Message”); the latter song is clearly a response to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, but it speaks to the emotions we all experience after some upheaval, whether on a large scale or on a personal one. The songs also range from infectiously upbeat (example: “Be a Threadhead,” which should get anyone dancing) to beautiful ballads—for instance, a breathtaking cover of Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” with Boutté’s deeply felt vocal & Sanchez’ lovely guitar back-up. This version exposes the emotional depth & lyrical beauty of the song, & each time I listen to it I’m reminded of the great Susannah McCorkle’s cover of “Still Crazy After All These Years”; Boutté reminds me of McCorkle in more ways than simply being a jazz singer covering a Paul Simon tune. Both singers have an impressive range that comes to life thru their uncanny ability to fully inhabit a song’s emotions.
Stew Called New Orleans ought to remind us—if we need reminding on this score—that New Orleans’ place in the jazz scene is not merely historical. The music on this album showcases all that’s great about music from this most musically mythic of all American cities—jazz that’s vibrant & yet accessible—& accessible in all the best senses of the word & none of the worst. This is an album I highly recommend. In the meantime, check out this live performance of John Boutté singing “American Tune” with Paul Sanchez on guitar.